Below is Rods speech in support of the motion regarding Family Violence Animal Welfare. Unfortunately time did not permit Rod to speak.
This motion makes a lot of sense. Our legislation needs to reflect our growing understanding of domestic violence, the factors at play and how we can better support victims.
The role of companion animals in family violence has been known for some time.
For women suffering from an abusive relationship, having a companion animal is yet another factor stopping these women from fleeing and receiving the help they need. They know that their abuser could use their companion animal as a hostage, threatening to injure or kill the animal if the women leave. This is not uncommon.
This issue is especially relevant as many refuges and crisis accommodation options do not house companion animals. While in some cases, there are services that offer to look after the animal for a period of time, this can mean women are left without their companion animal in a moment of intense emotional instability, insecurity and change. I believe that there should be options for victims of domestic violence to find refuge with their beloved companions.
If we know that perpetrators of domestic violence are likely to threaten, hurt or kill family animals as a means of controlling female partners, we must take measures to stop this from happening and introduce consequences for doing so.
Feedback from frontline workers consistently indicates that domestic violence victim-survivors often disclose that perpetrators have threatened to harm or kill animals. If we can better protect animals from perpetrators, we can improve the safety of all people experiencing domestic and family violence.
If a woman knows that their companion animal will be safe, this allows them to then focus on taking care of themselves.
That is why we need mechanisms in place to ensure that companion animals do not remain in the custody of the perpetrators and victims can easily amend the animal registration and microchipping details without alerting the perpetrator to their location. By being more aware of how the protection of companion animals can be incorporated into the application of laws and service delivery, we can provide much better support for victims of family and domestic violence.
It should also be acknowledged that animals that are subject to domestic violence can suffer from long-lasting impacts, carrying trauma responses often well after their owner has left the violent home.
I am pleased to see that this motion also focuses on how animals can be incorporated into risk assessment frameworks.
There are many factors at play when victims of domestic violence are deciding whether to flee and seek help.
It is so important that we can incorporate animals into an escape plan by ensuring organisations provide appropriate advice and support before victims plan to leave. For example, removing an animal ahead of time could alert the abuser of plans to flee.
The most dangerous time for a woman and her childern to be seriously injured or killed by a partner or ex-partner is when they are preparing to leave. Support organisations must factor in the importance of companion animals in any plan to leave. This begins with the government recognising that companion animals are victims of family violence and require protections.
I also believe that education plays an important role in the issue of family violence.
There is much work to be done with young males.
Education gets to the root of the problem and can help shape the values of our future generations. Domestic violence is an immense issue and we need to address it at its core.
Companion animals and domestic violence are inherently linked. Our legislation, organisations and service delivery should reflect that fact.
That is why I will be supporting this motion today. I commend this motion to the house.