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  • Domestic violence attention turns to pets, the voiceless victims.

    28 August at 20:45 from atlas

    They are the voiceless victims that can sometimes be forgotten in the dialogue about domestic violence, but new attention is being paid to the pets that find themselves in the middle of abusive turmoil. 

    DV Connect chief executive officer Di Mangan said there was a high level of stress for women who did not want to leave their animals behind when fleeing abusive, controlling and violent partners.

    RSPCA Queensland has run a program with DV Connect since 2005 called Pets in Crisis, helping foster pets including cats, dogs - and the occasional rat - for women leaving domestic violence.

    The program cared for 236 animals for an average of 33 days each last financial year.

    Shelters are often not equipped to accept animals, and the Not Now, Not Ever report found some women may delay leaving a domestic violence situation because they were worried about what the perpetrator would do to their pets.

    On Tuesday, the Queensland government committed $100,000 over two years to the program, which costs about $240,000 per year to run.

    Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Minister Shannon Fentiman said harming pets was another way perpetrators could continue power and control over a victim.

    "We know they're [RSPCA and DV Connect] busier than ever, more and more women are coming forward to report domestic and family violence," she said.

    "That's a good thing, we have taken this issue out from behind closed doors, but it means we need more support for our hardworking services and volunteers.

    "We know that women will feel more comfortable seeking refuge and leaving a violent relationship if they know their pets will be cared for."

    The animals taken in by the RSPCA are fostered out while the person escapes the domestic violence situation, and the pets often have expensive vet bills and need vaccinations.

    RSPCA Queensland chief executive Mark Townend admitted the organisation could always do with more money.

    "Unfortunately the need is increasing every year, it became hard to economically run the program with all the other pressures we have looking after animals across Queensland and the government has come to the rescue," Mr Townend said.

    "We still need some support and DV Connect needs some support to still make that small gap up."

    Mr Townend said there was also pressure on the RSPCA's wildlife service.

    "We're dealing with 23,000 animals a year coming into our wildlife hospital - it used to be four and five thousands only a few years ago," he said.

    "So that's taking a lot of our resources for our core business."

    In response to recommendations in the Not Now, Not Ever report, shelters established by the Queensland government in Townsville and Brisbane accommodate pets.

    The shelters due to open in Charters Towers and Roma will also allow victims to bring pets, as will two new shelters announced in the 2017-18 state budget for south-east Queensland.

    Article appeared in SMH  15 th August 2017  written by Felicity Caldwell.



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