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Jasmine Montgomery, Zhanming Liang, Janice Lloyd
People often form strong emotional attachments with their companion animals. When this relationship is threatened by forced separation, people may take risks to their safety and wellbeing to protect and stay with their companion animal.
This scoping review maps concepts, evidence, and impacts of forced separation between people and their companion animals in the categories of domestic violence, homelessness, and natural disasters. Five relevant databases were searched: Medline Ovid, Psycinfo, Scopus, CINAHL, and EMCARE Ovid. Forty-two articles on the human–animal bond and situations of separation were included in the analysis, which revealed devastating results for companion animals, with death and loss of the animals prominent across all three categories of forced separation.
Significant psychological distress and an increased risk to safety in people were found across all three categories. Risks people took to avoid forced separation included failing to evacuate to safety during natural disasters, delaying fleeing an abusive relationship, and prolonged homelessness while waiting for pet-friendly accommodation. Responsibility (who is responsible for the animal) and the cultural belief of human wellbeing as superior to that of animals emerged as major themes.
This scoping review identified the extent of research evidence and gaps in the domains of domestic violence, health, homelessness, natural disasters, and animal welfare. It will assist researchers, policy makers, and service providers working in these areas in understanding the characteristics and the complexities of situations involving forced separation of people and their companion animals to optimize supports.