On average, one woman is killed every week in Australia as a victim of domestic violence. Violence against animals is one of the three strongest risk factors for domestic and family violence (DFV) lethality.
Perpetrators of DFV often manipulate and control others through threatened or actual violence against companion animals.
Companion animals are present in 70% of domestic violence cases in Australia, and offenders may use animal victims to continue inflicting abuse. This may be through threatening, harming or killing the animal. In some cases if an offender can claim legal ‘ownership’ of the animal, they may also seek to have an animal euthanised to cause harm to the human victim.
Victims delay seeking refuge due to concerns about companion animals.
Research shows that 18-48% of victim-survivors did not leave or delayed leaving for fear of leaving their companion animals with the perpetrator. This number increases to 68% in cases where the animal had already been harmed. A recent study by Domestic Violence NSW further found that 42% of domestic violence survivors delayed seeking refuge for more than a year due to barriers accessing support related to their animals.
DFV victim-survivors often struggle to find accomodation with their animals
Due to a lack of funding and resources, shelters and refuges often cannot house companion animals. Many women find it difficult to secure rental accommodation when fleeing with an animal, which can lead to both animal and human survivors experiencing periods of homelessness and creates yet another barrier to fleeing violence. This urgently needs to change.
For people in rural or remote communities, the situation becomes even more difficult. Companion animals could include larger animals such as cows, goats, or horses. Finding temporary accommodation or refuges to escape with these animals and ensure their safety is an additional barrier and puts victims at further risk.
If you would like to get more involved in the campaign to protect animal victims of domestic violence, please contact Lucy’s Project HERE.
If you are experiencing violence please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or chat online at www.1800respect.org.au