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Animal Abuse and Domestic and Family Violence

Women’s Safety NSW have compiled this report in response to the Consultation Paper for the NSW Government’s Review into Animal Abuse and Domestic and Family Violence. Animal abuse within violent households is often an overlooked aspect within a domestic and family violence context. Our report assists in meeting the purpose of the review in understanding the prevalence of animal abuse in domestic and family violence contexts, the effectiveness of current protections, and the current support services available.

Victims of domestic violence and animal abuse go hand in hand as they share the experience of their abusers preying on the weak, vulnerable and powerless[1]. Abuse of pets, livestock and other companion animals is often used as a coercive and manipulative tactic by domestic violence perpetrators to control their partners. Threats of harm and actual harm directed at animals are perpetrated to create and maintain fear in home and to isolate and punish other family members experiencing or witnessing the abuse[2].

To address concerns surrounding the prevalence of animal abuse in domestic and family violence matters, Women’s Safety NSW conducted an online survey which was completed by a diverse range of frontline domestic and family violence specialists who are our members.

Key Findings:

  • Between 1 in 5 and 3 in 5 victims of domestic and family violence report animal abuse upon undertaking the Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool (“DVSAT”) with variance between metropolitan and regional/rural and remote locations.
  • Notably threats to harm the animal by the offender was reported by 94% domestic and family violence specialists as the most common form of animal abuse.
  • 100% of respondents believed the current laws on domestic and family violence do not provide appropriate recognition, coverage and protection for animals in domestic and family violence contexts.
  • 87.5% respondents believed that the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act (NSW) should be amended to more explicitly acknowledge harm to animals as grounds for seeking an ADVO.
  • 94% of respondents agreed that the mandatory order on ADVOs should also include animals who are connected with the person so that they are automatically protected.
  • 78% of respondents agreed that ADVOs should include an optional explicit order in relation to the custody or care of animals.
  • 92% of respondents believed that enforcing and investigating agencies do not have the appropriate scope of power when dealing with animal abuse to be able to account for domestic and family violence contexts.
  • Only 4% of respondents identified that their domestic and family violence service effectively caters to animals.
  • 100% of respondents identified a lack of available social housing which accommodates pets.

Methodology:

There were 39 survey participants from at least 18 identified women’s specialist domestic and family violence services (12 choosing not to identify their service name). Respondents were located across metropolitan (31%), regional (64%) and rural/remote (5%) geographical areas of NSW. Services surveyed included Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (“WDVCASs”) and Family Advocacy Support Services (“FASSs”) (14), women’s counselling and outreach services (2), a women’s health and counselling service (1), and a women’s domestic and family violence case management service (1). Those surveyed encompassed a variety of roles including: Safety Action Meeting Coordinators (3), WDVCAS Managers (5), Domestic and Family Violence Specialists (11), Domestic and Family Violence Case Worker (2), Aboriginal Domestic and Family Violence Specialists (3), Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Outreach Workers (1), Intake Manager (1), CEO (1), Assistant Manager (1), Social Support Worker (2), Anti-Violence Project Worker (1) and eight (8) unspecified.

Download the full report HERE.

[1] Olivia S. Garber, ‘Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence: Why the Connection Justifies Increased Protection’ (2016) The University of Memphis Law Review 47 (1) 366.

[2] Michelle Newberry, ‘Pets in danger: Exploring the link between domestic violence and animal abuse’ (2017) 34 (1) Aggression and Violent Behaviour 274.

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