There is no doubt about it: our beloved pets are also at risk from domestic violence perpetrators. Evidence shows us that these precious companions are often neglected, tortured or murdered in a last desperate attempt to control women who are taking steps to leave a violent relationship.
It is quite literally, horrific.
For women living with abusers, companion animals are often their only source of love, strength and hope during what are their darkest days. These animals often witness abuse and violence and, depending on the severity of the violence, can also be traumatised by it.
Sadly, because the bond between woman and pet is so strong, animals are often one of the reasons why women stay and endure the abuse. For them, staying and keeping their pets with them is better than leaving the relationship and having to leave their pets behind.
To break it down… the issue is that very few women’s shelters and even less hotels or other accommodation providers can take a woman and her pet. This separation of pet and owner, especially at a time of crisis, can be absolutely heartbreaking.
In recent years a number of organisations have started tackling this problem and amazingly, in such a short amount of time, many services have started up to help support women who want to leave a violent relationship violence with their pets.
In New South Wales the RSPCA has launched the Community Domestic Violence Program where pets are safely housed for a period of up to 2 weeks (this can be extended on application subject to the welfare of the animal in care).
Often while the pets are in care they are also treated for any violence related trauma and injuries and in cases where it is necessary, they can also be de-sexed and vaccinated. With safety front and centre, all pets entering this program are de-identified and kept in a secure location away from the general public. RSPCA NSW are happy to offer a 10% discount off all vet fees and both boarding and vet costs can be paid off using a payment plan through Centrepay (Centrelink). As an owner, you do not need to provide bedding, food or any other comforts for the animal as the RSPCA appreciates that it can be difficult to get access to these things during a crisis.
You may be able to visit your pets whilst they are in care but this will depend on the level of risk attached to your case and the psychological well-being of the pet.
Where possible services can be arranged on a same-day basis. The RSPCA can be reached on (02) 9782 4408 or (02) 9770 7555. Accommodation is generally provided on site in either Sydney or the Illawarra but in some cases animals will be housed at external shelters (in which case they must be up to date with their vaccinations before entry will be granted). You will need to provide your pet with transport to and from the care facilities and if increased safety concerns puts the animal or carers at risk during their stay, the RSPCA will transport them to an alternative facility.
The RSPCA advise all animals will be considered for housing with the only exception being extremely aggressive dogs who pose real risk to carers, other animals and themselves.
If the RSPCA option isn’t right for you there are other options…
One is of course to leave the animal with a close friend or family member, providing this doesn’t pose additional risk to the animal or the minder, from the perpetrator.
And don’t forget – you can always call your local Vet for crisis support with boarding. Many will be happy to help providing you give them as much information about your situation as possible.
Knowing your pet is out and safe will give you peace of mind so that you can work towards finding pet-friendly accommodation and be reunited with your pets as soon as safely and practically possible.
So there you have it… a quick look at options for women fleeing a violent relationship with pets.
If this article speaks to you, PLEASE DO NOT STAY and tolerate abuse simply because you are afraid for your animal. There are people who WILL go out of their way to support both you and your beloved little friend so that you don’t have to stay home and suffer in a violent relationship any longer.
Need support with Domestic Violence? My services are available Australia wide. I am a survivor myself so I will be able to understand your story and your concerns. If you’d like to read more about me or my services, please feel free to. You can also make a booking by visiting my contact page.
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Until next week…
Yours in better mental health,
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Erica has a passion for Women’s Health. She works with women who want to be heard, supported and empowered! Erica is a survivor of many life experiences. A Mum. A travel lover. A green thumb in training and an eternal optimist!