Pets and family violence

When it comes to Pets and family violence, Jodylee Bartal, Partner, Accredited Family Law Specialist and beloved pet owner, urges clients to reach out.   Most of us here at Schetzer Papaleo Family Lawyers have pets and they mean the world to us.

Pets, especially dogs and cats, can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression and provide stability, routine and a sense of purpose.  Unfortunately, for those experiencing family violence, the relationship with a pet may be the most positive relationship they have. 

Animals also play an important role in the lives of family violence victim-survivors, particularly children and young people, by reducing feelings of isolation.

Research undertaken by the Victorian and New South Wales Governments indicates that over half of people experiencing family violence reported that their pets had been harmed and a similar number stated they had delayed leaving a perpetrator by more than a year due to the fear or threat of an animal being harmed. 

Up to 80% of family violence victims reported that the perpetrator threatened to harm or remove their animals. 

On 3 March 2021, the Victorian Parliament unanimously passed the motion to recognise animal abuse as a form of family violence.  The motion provides financial assistance to victim-survivors of family violence including the care of animals AND that companion animals are placed in the care of either the victim-survivor or other appropriate carers to protect them AND a review of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 to recognise that companion animals are affected by family violence and require protection.

The Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria met last week to discuss further legislative reform and support to victims of domestic violence and their pets.  An estimated $1.3million in additional funding provided by the Victorian Government in the 2021/22 Budget has provided assistance for refuge providers to supply veterinary care and accommodation.

Animal abuse is now a recognised form of family violence in New South Wales and Victoria and can form the basis for an Intervention Order.  Elsewhere, more than two-thirds of States in the USA have enacted legislation that includes provisions for pets in domestic violence protection orders.

Application for Intervention Order

Police will often issue a family violence safety notice if immediate protection is required.

A Court may also make an order on application by the victim. 

Our Team of experienced lawyers can assist you with this process, in either applying for or responding to an application. 

Application for a change in Tenancy Agreement

If you are protected person in a family violence intervention order or under a family violence safety notice, you may also be able to apply for a change in your tenancy agreement.  Some of the changes that may be made include:

  • terminating the existing agreement and requiring the landlord to enter into a new tenancy agreement in your name; or
  • altering the terms of agreement to allow a pet to reside at the property.

If you need assistance in contemplation of separation, or following separation, we can help you navigate the process.

In case of emergency

If you are in immediate danger and need protection straight away, call 000 for Police Assistance.

If you live in Victoria, EDVOS (Eastern Domestic Violence Service) has a ‘Pets in Peril’ program run in conjunction with various animal welfare agencies.  Another is the Safe Steps Pets in Crisis Program, which assists women leaving situations of abuse safely and feeling confident that their pets will also be out of the home and cared for. 

If you live in New South Wales, West Connect, Paws and Recover and RSPCA NSW can provide assistance including crisis accommodation for your pets.

If you are experiencing family violence and need  help, you can call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 for 24/7 counselling, information and support.

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