Friday, January 2, 2015

Not All Victims of Abuse Can Dial 911

WORCESTER — Where do you even start when you want to introduce a bedazzled activist diva in the form of a 6-pound chihuahua? Meet Juno. She's kind of a big deal. 

This pooch, whose Facebook page has more than 130,000 fans from all over the world, may be small and may be able to balance herself on the outstretched palm of a hand (though she can more frequently be found riding shotgun in a decorated wagon at community events), but she is mightier than most of her canine peers when it comes to serious activism. 

Her "human," Deborah Young of Sturbridge, has been reaching out for decades to send messages to anyone who will listen about prevention of animal cruelty and advocacy for animal rescue efforts.

But more recently, Ms. Young has been studying, researching and identifying the links between animal cruelty and domestic abuse. And she can easily see that Juno is exactly the sidekick she needs to make her message heard. 

No matter where they go — which is basically anywhere they are invited, from rallies to festivals — people are attracted to Juno, and Ms. Young is attracted to people who will listen. 

The studies show, she said, that the type of person who is abusive toward his or her spouse, partner or child is often abusive toward animals, too. Therefore, it is her hope that authorities and neighbors will start to pay more attention to animal abusers in order to identify and prevent domestic abuse. 

"I am all for stiffer penalties for animal abusers," she said, "and I hope that police, social services and animal control will start working together so we can protect everyone. Not just the animals but their human family members." 

Having created Juno's Place, a Worcester-based organization dedicated to working through Juno to achieve some of her missions, Ms. Young is working to create awareness about these links in human behavior. In many domestic-abuse cases, she said, the abuse of animals is more open and widely acknowledged by neighbors and authorities. 

It is her hope that those red flags will be examined more closely, and she has named the campaign "Speak Up" in the hopes that people across Worcester will become active observes and reporters in their neighborhoods. 

One positive side effect of taking a closer look and instituting harsher consequences on animal abusers, she added, is that the animals will be available for rescue and adoption into other families. This may make the difference for a woman who is looking to get out of an abusive relationship. 

"Many times in cases like these, women are afraid to leave their abusive partner because they are afraid of what will happen to their pets," she said. "This will make that decision much easier for them." 

Ms. Young can often be found attending trials for some of the area's more widely known animal abusers, advocating for the animals and for the creation of new laws that will protect them. 

"If authorities can see, in a home, that an animal is being abused or neglected, there is a good chance that if they look around they will find that there is something else going on in the home," she said. "It might help to save a kid's life, or at least their childhood." 

According to Ms. Young, the best way to support Juno's Place is to visit her Facebook page and check out everything she is doing. But even more importantly is for people in the Worcester area to invite her to their school and community functions to Ms. Young can help her spread the word about animal cruelty and its link to domestic abuse. 

"Juno has all these fans all over the world. I reply to emails from faraway places daily," she said. "But I want to be in Worcester because this is my city and I want to make a difference here. In the end, we are just trying to help make the city a better place." 

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