Support for Pets in Domestic Violence Situations

Posted Dec 15, 2020
If you have pets, what would you do if you were caught up in a domestic violence situation? RSPCA Qld’s Pets In Crisis program is here to help people and pets in need
Animal abuse is closely linked, or even habitually part, of the domestic abuse cycle. Pets and dogs in particular, are often harmed by abusers as a means of frightening their victims into submission. In fact, studies show that 49–71 percent of women in violent relationships witnessed their pets being threatened, hurt or killed by their abusive partners. One study even highlighted that 35 percent of women delayed their escape due to their fears about their pets.
Bonny's Story

Sadly, this is a situation that Bonny knows all too well. She was a victim of domestic violence.

She found it very difficult to escape her relationship and abusive situation, especially with pets involved. Bonny owned a kitten and never thought that she would be used against her by her partner, “He used to chase her away all the time and wouldn't allow me to spend money on vet bills and procedures such as desexing, so she soon became pregnant and had a litter of kittens.”

Bonny said, “One day after another argument, he sent me a text message about her and I knew something was wrong, so I went looking for her and her newborn kittens and couldn't find them anywhere. I was beside myself with worry and felt sick that he had done something awful to them to get back at me. All the while he just watched me searching for them and wouldn't tell me where they were. I finally found them all in a small box inside a cupboard under our two story house, where he had put a heavy bag of tools in front of the door, so there was no way for them to escape.”

“We were in Central Queensland in the middle of summer and when I got to them, the box was soaked through with sweat and they were all saturated and panting heavily. I quickly removed them all to cool them down and put them in my car, took photos of the box and cats for evidence, and got in my car to get them to safety,” Bonny said.

Bonny continued, “As I was leaving, I told him I was going to report him to the RSPCA, which enraged him, and he kept trying to get into my car as I was trying to drive down the driveway. He would stand in front of the car slamming his fists down on the bonnet yelling at me to get out of the car. He opened the door to get in the car again, so I stopped, turned the engine off and rang someone to help me and take my cat and her kittens away to safety… which they did and took them to a rescue in Yeppoon. This saddened me deeply that I had now lost her, however I was relieved she was now safe from harm.”

Despite also being pregnant, eventually Bonny was able to get away from her abusive ex-partner and start a happy new life. But it wasn’t easy. “Without a place to call my own, it was easier to fall into the trap of believing him. Each time he would apologise and beg me to come back to our house. He also had a dog that he would never walk or take care of properly, so I felt I needed to go back to take care of him,” Bonny reflected.

“Leaving a relationship that involves domestic violence is very complex and at times, a dangerous thing to do. Having programs like Pets in Crisis can mean the difference between being able to leave and staying with an abuser who holds all of the control. It helps restore the balance and allows the person experiencing domestic violence to take back responsibility for their lives. The emotional turmoil can never be underestimated and when there are children and animals involved, every little bit of support and assistance counts,” Bonny said.

Since 2005, RSPCA Queensland has partnered with DVConnect to provide the Pets in Crisis Program – caring for pets while families seek safety. To find out more, or check eligibility, call DV Connect Women’s line on 1800 811 811 or DV Connect Men’s line on 1800 600 636.

RSPCA Queensland Ambassador Rachel Moore (above), has proudly supported the program. “I wanted to try and spread the word in any way that I could; that there is help for a pet, while removing yourself from the house and the relationship. So many people don't want to leave an animal with a violent partner, or cannot take the animal to a friend or relative’s house, or to a new rental property.”

RSPCA Queensland needs more than $250,000 annually to continue to deliver the Pets in Crisis Program. With each animal staying on average for 30 days, this equals almost 4,000 care days plus veterinary expenses. Pets in Crisis endeavours to release the financial and emotional burden placed on domestic violence victims, and relies heavily upon community support and donations to continue this vital service.

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

Emma Lagoon
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