Understanding the link between Domestic Violence and Pets

Sadly pets are often abused as part of the spectrum of domestic violence. Domestic violence counsellors regularly speak with women whose pets are beaten or tortured by abusive partners in order to frighten and control them into staying in violent relationships. RSPCA Queensland’s Inspectorate frequently investigates animal cruelty cases of this nature. 

The Community Need

No one should feel that they can’t leave a violent home. However, the majority of domestic violence refuges are neither equipped nor permitted to accept animals. This can cause extreme distress to the victims of domestic violence (for many of whom their pet has become a lifeline) and can, in some circumstances, prevent them from accessing refuge accommodation – placing themselves and their animals at further risk of harm. Indeed, research shows that up to 25% of women in violent situations where there is a family pet present may remain in that situation because of concern for the welfare of their pet should they leave.

This also means that the children of such women will also often remain in violent and dangerous situations rather than leave their pet behind with the abuser. For some women the animal has been a tool used against them in their abuse. This can include threats of and actual harm towards the pets.

Our Community Solution

Since 2005 we have partnered with DVConnect (Domestic and Family Violence Service Qld) and just last year alone RSPCA Queensland has cared for over 130 Pets in Crisis.  With each animal staying on average for 30 days this equals almost 4,000 care days plus veterinary expenses. Running Pets in Crisis means that the RSPCA needs more than $150,000 annually to continue to deliver the program. 

The lack of independent funding for Pets in Crisis, combined with the growing demand for RSPCA services, has placed Pets in Crisis at risk, which is why we’re seeking support to ensure the sustainability and longevity of this important community service.

Pets in Crisis provides a safe house for the pets of individuals at serious risk of domestic violence. Women who need to seek refuge but who are unable to find care for their pets can contact the DVConnect 24 hour crisis line on 1800 811 811 and DVConnect will work directly with RSPCA Qld to find temporary care for their pets at either an RSPCA Animal Care Centre across the State or with trained RSPCA foster carers.

Pets in Crisis is a critical program that delivers many community benefits. On the one hand, it provides women with a release from their ‘hostage’ situations and enables families to seek refuge.

On the other, pets are protected from violence or abandonment and are able to be reunited with their families when they are in a safe environment.

How You Can Help

If you would like to find out more about the RSPCA Pets in Crisis program, including eligibility, please call DV Connect in the first instance. Please note that this program is for domestic violence cases only, and not homelessness, mental health or hospitalisation cases.

  • DV Connect Women's line: 1800 811 811
  • DV Connect Men's line: 1800 600 636

If you would like to discuss the program in more detail and any specific questions relating to the program, please contact Chloe Bess on 0408 630 293.

If you can help to keep the program in place, please contact Zoe Black for enquiries related to program funding on 07 3426 9973 or zblack@rspcaqld.org.au