Study reveals extent of animal suffering in domestic violence situations

Study reveals extent of animal suffering in domestic violence situations

Graphic accounts of horrific animal torture have emerged in a new study highlighting the suffering of animals in domestic violence situations.

The new report by Domestic Violence NSW highlights how animals suffer in abusive relationships and how abusing pets is often another means of mistreating partners.

Based on the findings, the peak body recommends stronger responses from agencies fighting to prevent domestic violence and animal rights organisations.

It comes after NSW Prevention of Domestic Violence Minister Mark Speakman introduced a bill that would expand family violence protections to include animals.

More than half of domestic and family violence workers who responded to the new study said victims disclosed to them their tormentors had killed an animal in the context of domestic violence. Four out of five said there had been threats to kill or harm an animal.

Harrowing stories recounted by domestic and family violence survivors revealed the extreme levels of abuse levelled against animals by perpetrators.

One respondent said they received a video of their perpetrator’s animal eating their pet, while another reported their perpetrator “holding an animal over a balcony railing by the back legs”.

Another respondent told the researchers: “I had a dog who was a three-legged rescue, he and I were best friends from the moment I saw him.”

“My ex-wife felt I was giving him more love than her and was getting too much of my and my son’s attention, so she drowned him in the family pool. She told me I deserved this, and so did the dog, because he was a distraction and I was being selfish.”

Another respondent described how after suffering violence against her pets by her brother growing up, she married an abusive man who would mistreat her cats.

After breaking off the marriage and becoming homeless, the woman said she struggled to afford to take care of the cats with her ex-husband refusing to contribute.

“I had to try and manage on my own with disabilities and very little income being homeless three times and moving multiple times all over Sydney. There was no place to assist with the cost of vet bills, and there was no support that I could get,” the woman said.

The survey found the COVID-19 crisis had made the situation worse, with 70 per cent of respondents agreeing the pandemic had increased the complexity of needs and nearly half saying violence had increased.

Nearly one in five said violence against animals increased too.

The new amendment to the Crimes Act 2007, introduced by Mr Speakman two weeks ago, is working its way through the lower house and is expected to be debated again next week.

The bill would expand the meaning of “intimidation” in the context of apprehended domestic violence orders to include threats to animals.

Mr Speakman, who has been briefed on the new report, said ahead of introducing the bill: “Perpetrators use animals to intimidate, retaliate against, and manipulate victims during the relationship and after separation as punishment for leaving.”

“This is an important step that will make it easier to respond to this vile form of abuse that seeks to terrorise victims and their much-loved animals.”


■ 1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732 – for 24/7 sexual, domestic and family violence,telephone and online counselling

■ NSW Domestic Violence Line – 1800 65 64 63 – for referrals to DV, legal and medical support and emergency accommodation