Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Help understand the impact of domestic violence on families, including companion animals

I'm at a loss as to how to illustrate a post like this. I'm leaving it with roses.
Today’s post is about a sad but very important topic: companion animals in households where domestic abuse or violence occurs.

Multiple studies and reports in Australia and overseas show that victims of domestic violence often report that the offender physically harms or threatens to harm companion animals. We also know that offenders who abuse pets are more dangerous than those who do not – they demonstrate increased rates of physical and sexual violence. In one US based study, the harming of a companion animal was one of the key indicators that the offender would go on to kill their partner. In Australia, most female victims of homicide are killed by an intimate partner. And the situation appears to be worsening.

One of the big barriers in studying domestic violence is that it happens behind closed doors, and is not easily talked about. 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty has done a great deal to change that culture, and indeed we can all help.

Sydney University colleague Dr Lydia Tong is involved in an important Australian study on companion animals in domestic violence contexts. You can help by spreading the word about the survey. We know that victims of natural disasters are less likely to evacuate - even at risk of personal danger - if they cannot secure the safety of companion animals. It has also been shown, time and again, that victims of domestic violence and abuse may not leave their situation if they feel their companion animals are at risk.

The aims of the study are to document the extent and nature of abuse of companion animals, as well as finding out risk factors for Australian victims of domestic violence – especially those who cannot access services for their pet. Another aim of the study is to find out about the relationships between victims, their pets and veterinarians, and if they think the Australian veterinary profession and other authorities and services (such as animal welfare groups, social services and police) could better serve their needs.

The online questionnaire has been developed over the last 12 months in consultation with Domestic Violence NSW, Domestic Violence NSW Service Management, and the St Georges Domestic Violence Inter-agency group (NSW). 

Any pet or animal owner (current or previous) may be a respondent. 

The target respondent is a person who also has or is experiencing a dysfunctional and/or abusive relationship - abuse may have been directed to themselves, children, any animals, or any combination of the three.  For the purposes of this study we include all forms of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, etc.). It may have been an intimate partner or another family member (parent, sibling, child etc). Because respondents may not necessarily identify as being in an abusive relationship despite experiencing abuse, we aim to keep the official target audience as broad as possible (any pet/animal owners).


The larger the response, the stronger the study, so please share this post with others you know.

You can complete the survey here.

Remember also that organisations like the RSPCA run programs such as Safe Beds for Pets, providing shelter and care for companion animals of victims of domestic violence.