Protection Dogs Offer a New Kind of Support to Domestic Abuse Victims
A security firm in Spain has found that man’s best friend can also be his worst enemy in situations of domestic violence, where dogs protect victims from further abuse.
In Spain, specially trained guard dogs are now being provided to some women in order to protect them from situations of domestic violence and abusive partners.
The non-profit organization Security Dogs, which is run by Angel Mariscal, an experienced security dog handler and trainer who also owns a private security firm, gives what he calls ‘protection dogs’ to abused women. Currently, 20 women have already been set up with a protection dog, with 16 more on the waiting list.
This brilliant idea came about when Mariscal reasoned that dogs could use their natural instinct of protection toward their owners to defend women who have been abused and are at risk of possible further abuse from partners.
The service dog and prospective owner have to go through almost 200 hours of training before the dog is sent home for good, and even before that, the woman must be assessed first by a psychologist to determine whether a protection dog would be a good fit. In addition, the organization assess whether or not the woman’s home environment is one that is suitable and safe, and she takes another 20-hour course, under police supervision, in order to be matched with a dog that suits her best.
When looking for matches of protection dogs and women, Mariscal says his organization prefers that the woman already has a protective order against her partner. However, they look at each case individually and recognize that some women are simply too afraid to take their circumstances to court for protection, though they desperately need it.
It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that these canines are bred to just be aggressive dogs that are trained to kill, but that’s the idea at all. Security Dogs want their dogs to be social and amiable with children and live ‘normal’ home life–that is, until they are needed to protect their owner using a set of specific commands.
Mariscal says it’s becoming more evident is that the dogs are not physical protection for their owners, but they also empower the women. Having a protection dog gives the woman more self-confidence and she is able to get her life back on track faster than she would without that sense of security.
Women who have protection dogs see such value and security in their dogs that they are looking to have legislation that will treat these dogs like guide dogs–with similar rights and abilities to go everywhere their owner goes. Owners of these protection dogs say it helps confidence levels and reduces fear more than any other forms of therapy they undergo.
It costs close to $9,000 US dollars to purchase and train the dogs, but they are given free of charge by Security Dogs, which is funded solely from Mariscal’s security firm profits. The nonprofit receives no extra funding from the Spanish government or local authorities, though that may change as more benefits are seen with the dogs.
In the meantime, Mariscal continues to train and offer the dogs to women whose lives have been forever changed by domestic violence, and in doing so, give them peace of mind as they regain their lives.