There are few support services in place for people fleeing violent relationships or family violence, who also have pets.
We all know the startling statistics. As the White Ribbon Foundation reports, one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of someone known to them.
As the RSPCA adds, 85 percent of women who enter domestic violence shelters have reported that their partner physically threatened or abused their family pet.
Many short-term housing options do not allow pets and there are few domestic violence shelters in Australia that accommodate for four-legged friends.
But a brilliant initiative from RSPCA NSW and Dignity Ltd will seek to assist people with pets that are escaping family and domestic violence situations.
The project will offer a framework and practical support to refuges across NSW in the form of safe enclosures, food, preventative treatment and other services to accommodate humans and their pets on-site together.
“The human-animal bond is incredibly powerful, providing stress relief, emotional support and unconditional love, and for those who have survived traumatic situations, this relationship is vital,” RSPCA NSW’s Community Outreach Programs Manager Sandra Ma said in a statement.
“When left with few options, victims may be forced to give up this source of love or stay in an abusive relationship. If refuges become pet-friendly, this creates a better outcome for a greater number leaving violent situations.”
As the ABC reports, being separated from pets can be an additional stress for family members fleeing domestic violence.
The Northern Domestic Violence Service In Adelaide is one of the services that allows women to bring their pets with them.
"The separation leads to more anxiety, it's more stress for the children in a situation that's already incredibly stressful," the Northern Domestic Violence Service’s Carley Milich told the ABC.
"The ability to have pets stay here I think has aided many a woman in her decision to leave ... knowing they could bring their pet here has helped immeasurably," she said.
The RSPCA and Dignity pilot launched on July 1, with funded across up to five refuges in the state, for nine months. Here’s hoping it becomes a national initiative.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.