Demanding the recognition of animal abuse as a precursor to domestic and family violence

Today in Parliament, Abigail gave notice of a motion regarding the link between animal abuse and domestic and family violence, and calling on the NSW Government to urgently implement reforms to address this issue.

Abigail said:

I give notice that on the next sitting day I will move: 

(1) That this House notes that:

  • there is growing recognition of the links between animal abuse and domestic and family violence (DFV), that animals themselves are often victims of DFV and that animal abuse can be a risk factor for DFV and domestic homicide; 
  • according to Community Legal Centres NSW, it is estimated that up to 70% of domestic violence victim-survivors report abuse of a companion animal or other animal by the perpetrator; 
  • according to Lucy’s Project, a charity that aims to improve the safety of people and animals experiencing domestic and family violence:
    • animals play a significant role in supporting victim-survivors in recovery and healing from DFV; 
    • anecdotal evidence suggests that a significant number of victim-survivors who have companion animals are frequently turned away from rentals because they are not pet friendly; and 
    • were animal welfare workers and veterinary professionals more frequently referring victim-survivors to frontline DFV services when they encounter them, this could be a critical point of early intervention for many victim-survivors.
  • Accredited Charitable Organisations under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (the RSPCA NSW and AWL NSW) are provided with a limited allocation of funding to carry out their duties and do not have the capacity to take in, care for and rehome the large volume of animals that are affected by DFV, and nor do community-led animal welfare organisations; 
  • according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) in a report entitled “Violence against family animals in the context of intimate partner violence” published in April 2024:
    • violence against family animals has negative effects on the physical and psychological wellbeing of victim-survivors, including children and family animals;
    • perpetrators may threaten, harm or kill family animals with an intention to control victim-survivors, cause emotional distress and/or control animals;
    • many victim-survivors report staying with, delaying leaving or returning to perpetrators due to fears for the safety of family animals left with the perpetrator;
    • actions at the practitioner, service and systemic levels to strengthen support for victim-survivors who have experienced violence against family animals include screening for violence against family animals and providing support with animal-inclusive safety planning, and increasing access to animal-inclusive crisis accommodation; and
    • a substantial body of research about violence against family animals in the context of intimate partner violence has been conducted within the last 5–10 years across the world, however there are gaps in Australian-specific research, as well as in research detailing the experiences of victim-survivors who have not accessed formal support services. 

(2) That this House calls on the NSW Government to:

  • commit to increase funding and resources for DFV services including emergency, crisis and transitional housing to be animal-inclusive so that victim-survivors and their animals are supported to be safe and recover together;
  • facilitate victim-survivors staying with their animals through pet-friendly rental reforms, changes to rules around microchipping and registration, and increased access to veterinary care;
  • provide trauma-informed training and proper resourcing for DFV, homelessness, community, child and family, health and other services to identify and respond to animal abuse as a component of DFV;
  • provide training and resourcing for animal welfare workers and veterinary professionals to recognise, respond to and refer victim-survivors of DFV; 
  • commit to provide funding for research on the link between animal abuse and DFV in NSW, with the aim of improving service responses and informing prevention and early intervention and support strategies; and 
  • develop data collection and sharing between AWL NSW, RSPCA NSW and the NSW Police Force in order to inform evidence-based decisions about funding and education needs for the sector to assist in identifying, responding to and preventing both animal abuse and DFV incidents.

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