Puppy recovering after surviving domestic violence incident
Posted February 3
Updated February 4
Chatham County, N.C. — A Chatham County puppy that survived an attack by one of her owners is out of surgery and will soon need a new home.
Niahmetrius Williams, 23, of 1788 Old Lystra Road in Chapel Hill, was arrested Jan. 8 and charged with cruelty to animals, assault on female, simple assault on officer and communicating threats.
Williams was arrested after a domestic dispute where he allegedly struck his girlfriend in the face and attempted to cut off the dog's leg, authorities said. The animal was found in nearby woods, her left femur shattered in 10 places.
A large knife was used to attack Bella, a 4-month-old terrier mix, to punish the dog’s other owner, according to Chatham Animal Rescue and Education. The dog, who had surgery at Veterinary Specialty Hospital of the Carolinas, is expected to walk again.
"She's such a fantastic little girl, so initially it was heartbreaking to see her like that," said Dr. Elaine Holmes, the surgeon who operated on the pup.
Domestic violence incidents involving pets are not uncommon, said Molly Jenkins, human-animal interaction specialist with the American Humane Association. Authorities see pet abuse as a red flag for other types of abuse, including child abuse, she said.
"It's essentially used as a way to hurt the victim and to control that person as well," she said. "The person that's doing the abuse may hurt the animal as a way to say 'if you leave me or do anything I don't like I will hurt the dog.'"
Over 70 percent of female pet owners entering women’s shelters reported their abuser injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control their victims, according to the association. Up to 40 percent of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets if they leave, the association said.
Stephanie Francis works for InterAct of Wake County, which provides support services to victims of domestic violence. The nonprofit started a safe pets program about six years ago, when organizers realized many women were staying in dangerous situations to protect their animals.
"It is not unusual for perpetrators of (domestic violence) to use animals as just another tool for taking power away and trying to control their victims," Francis said.
Bella is currently with a foster family, and once healed, will be available for adoption through Chatham Animal Rescue and Education.