Saving Pets From Family Violence

28 February 2017

The Andrews Labor Government is helping women and children escape family violence – with their pets - through a new program to house and protect at-risk animals.

Safe Steps completes risk assessments for thousands of families every year – about 3,500 family violence victims identify that their pets are at serious risk of harm or even of being killed.

Pets are often used as weapons by perpetrators of family violence to punish and control women and children.

Fear of harm to pets can be a reason why women do not report – or delay reporting – family violence to police.

The Government has invested $100,000 for the Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre, Lort Smith Animal Hospital, the RSPCA and the Municipal Association of Victoria to work together to help women, children – and their pets.

In one example, a 57-year-old woman who had just left an extremely violent relationship was able to receive emergency boarding for her dog through Lort Smith, with Safe Steps arranging for the necessary vaccinations and veterinary assessments. When safe, pet-friendly accommodation was found, she was reunited with her dog.

Studies have shown that violence against animals has a similar psychological impact on a woman as if she was being abused herself. Animal abuse is also considered a ‘red flag’ as perpetrators who abuse animals often use more dangerous forms of violence and controlling behaviours towards their partners.

The Government is implementing all 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. The Pets in Crisis program also supports Victoria’s 10-year Family Violence Strategy.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos

“We know that one of the reasons that can prevent women from leaving violent relationships is because they're worried about their pets."

"By finding safe accommodation for pets, this vital program helps protect women and children from family violence.”

Quotes attributable to Safe Steps CEO Annette Gillespie

“The Pets in Crisis program has allowed Safe Steps to work with partner agencies – including the Lort Smith Animal Hospital, the RSPCA and Animal Aid and the Victorian Municipal Association – to build a framework for a statewide referral pathway for pets and animals put at risk from family violence.”

“This means when women contact Safe Steps and disclose they have concerns about their pet, or are hesitant about leaving a harmful relationship because they are concerned about being removed from their pet, that a safe emergency care arrangement is immediately available.”

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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