Researchers have found that a batterer’s first target is often an animal living in the home—the second target is a spouse or child. Often, batterers are able to control their victims, such as a spouse, by threatening, torturing, or killing the victim’s animals. – PETA

More info: http://www.peta.org/issues/companion-animal-issues/cruel-practices/human-animal-abuse/animal-family-violence/