Helping pets and people in family violence situations

RSPCA South Australia is committed to working with the community and all organisations responding to domestic and family violence to help families and their pets find safety.

Substantial evidence exists worldwide documenting the connection between animal abuse and domestic and family violence. This includes recognition of the fact that:

  • Pet abuse often occurs before or at the same time as human abuse in domestic and family violence situations.
  • A major reason for the abuse of pets by perpetrators is to control women and children.
  • Many women will delay leaving an abusive relationship because they cannot make arrangements for the safety of their pets – rates range from 18% to 48% (Volant et al., 2008).
  • Significant trauma is experienced by women and children witnessing the threat or actual abuse of pets.
  • Over 50% of pets living in violent households are reported as deliberately injured or killed (Ascione 1997; Volant et al. 2008).
  • Pets are an important part of the family, and they play a significant role in increasing the physical and emotional wellbeing of their owners (Taylor, et al., 2020).

In response to this evidence, RSPCA has established the Safe Kennels DV Project.

Key objectives of our Safe Kennels Domestic Violence (DV) Project

  1. Develop effective collaborative working relationships with key organisations responding to domestic and family violence in South Australia.
  2. Develop improved information resources for women escaping violent relationships.
  3. Develop training resources  for domestic violence workers on matters that impact pet safety.
  4. Ensure all RSPCA internal policies and procedures allow for effective referral to Safe Kennels emergency accommodation and related programs.
  5. Encourage the development of foster care networks outside of RSPCA’s shelter environment for pets impacted by domestic and family violence.
  6. Explore the potential and, where possible, support initiatives for pets to remain with women and children escaping domestic violence from the outset.
  7. Advocate for an increase in pet-friendly rental accommodation.

Practical information for keeping pets safe in domestic and family violence situations

Need someone else to care for your pet while you escape a violent relationship?

We recommended you keep the following information with you:

  • A photo of your pet, and a document containing their name, age and feeding schedule, what they normally eat, details of any medical conditions, their temperament, likes and dislikes (including whether they can be boarded with children/other animals), whether they live indoors/outdoors, whether they have a history of escaping/jumping fences etc.
  • Something to prove you own the pet (for example: registration or vet bills in your name).
  • Details of your pet’s current veterinary clinic alongside any copies of medical records, proof of vaccination records and/or microchip details.
Plan for keeping your pet safe and where it might go if temporary care is required

We recommend being prepared with the following:

  • Keep your pet’s leash, collar, harness, ID tags and carrier cage at hand.
  • Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date and that you have proof of vaccination.
  • Make sure your pet is microchipped and that your microchip contact details are up to date. (Learn how to change your details here.)
  • Speak with family and friends to see if they would be willing to provide temporary boarding. 
  • Be sure to carry a copy of contact details for emergency animal carers in your wallet, mobile phone or bag. You can print our handy downloadable emergency card for this. 
  • In some cases local councils, community groups or social workers may be able to help you. 
  • Contact DV helplines to check for availability of pet-friendly services: 1800 737 732 or 1800 800 098. DV services are becoming increasingly pet-inclusive.
  • Search the PetRescue Knowledge Base to find your local rescue and crisis support groups. 
  • Alternatively, temporary pet sitters often advertise online on websites such as PetCloud.

We put together this emergency checklist so you can easily check that you’ve covered everything you need to ensure your animals will be well looked after.

Contact details for more help and support

If you are in a domestic violence situation and are seeking assistance, in the first instance please call domestic violence helplines on 1800 737 732 or 1800 800 098.  In an emergency, ring 000.

For additional information and support services visit:

SA.GOV.AU – Domestic and family violence and sexual assault support services (www.sa.gov.au).

If you wish to discuss emergency accommodation for your pet, call RSPCA South Australia on 1300 47 7722.

All other enquiries regarding our Safe Kennels DV project can be directed to the Safe Kennels Project Officer. Click here to send us an email.

Please note, our email is not being attended to after hours and is not a suitable method of communication in an emergency.

Do you, or does someone you know, need additional advice on caring for a pet?

You can access pet care advice and educational resources here.

Would you like to offer a safe haven for a pet in a crisis?

If you are able to provide a safe space for a pet in need, we’d like to hear from you. 

We need compassionate people to become foster carers for animals rescued from a variety of situations, including pets of people fleeing domestic and family violence, pets of people who found themselves hospitalised due to an emergency or mental health crisis, as well as pets that have experienced abuse. 

RSPCA provides foster carers with all the food, health care and equipment needed for the animals. 

By opening your home to animals impacted by human crisis, you’ll be making an important and meaningful difference to vulnerable pet owners and animals in need. 

RSPCA South Australia acknowledges and thanks the Government of South Australia for supporting this project. Supported by a grant from the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.

References:

Ascione, F.R. (1997). Battered Women’s Reports of Their Partners’ and Their Children’s Cruelty to Animals. Journal of Emotional Abuse 1(1):119-133.

Taylor, N., Fraser, H. and Riggs, D. W. (2020). Companion-animal-inclusive domestic violence practice: Implications for service delivery and social work, Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work 32(4), 26–39.

Volant A.M., Johnson J.A., Gullone E., Coleman G.J. (2008). The relationship between domestic violence and animal abuse: an Australian study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 9:1277-1295.

Dog