A NEW report shows at least 15 per cent of animal cruelty cases sentenced in Victoria over two years involved family violence.
But Centre for Non-Violence chief executive Margaret Augerinos says the link between family violence and animal cruelty is much closer.
The Sentencing Advisory Council released its inaugural Animal Cruelty Offences in Victoria report on Tuesday.
The report examines how many offences were sentenced, who committed them and what sentences offenders received throughout a 10-year period.
It also analysed animal cruelty cases flagged as family violence in the Magistrates’ Court in 2016 and 2017.
The report found 35 of 231 animal cruelty cases – 15 per cent – were flagged as involving family violence.
Ms Augerinos said in reality the link between family violence and animal cruelty was much higher.
“As we know a great majority of family violence doesn’t get reported,” she said.
“Animal abuse or threat to harm animals happens very much with many of the women and children we’re working with. It’s not uncommon at all.
“It can make the decision to leave an abusive situation very, very difficult.”
Ms Augerinos said threats to harm pets and animals, and actual harm, were common with family violence.
She said pets were part of the equation when creating action plans for women and children in violent situations.
The centre works with animal shelters and other organisations to try to provide a safe environment for pets.
Animal shelters might take the pets temporarily.
But Ms Augerinos said it was often harder to find a safe environment for larger pets such as farm animals.
“There aren’t often many places you can take them,” she said.
Ms Augerinos encouraged anyone who was facing threats against themselves or their pets to call police or to seek advice from the centre or 24-hour hotlines.
“Everyone has a right to safety, including pets and animals,” she said.
The advisory council report stated research showed family violence offenders who engaged in animal cruelty were more likely than other family violence offenders to engage in violence and controlling behaviours.
“A number of studies of pet-owning women seeking services from domestic violence shelters have found that between 47 per cent and 71 per cent of the respondents’ male partners had threatened, harmed or killed their pet,” the report said.
Victorian courts sentenced a total of 2960 animal cruelty charges in 1115 cases from 2008 to 2017.
Where to seek help
- If you or someone you know is affected by family violence or sexual assault, call safe steps on 1800 015 188 or 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732
- In Bendigo and central Victoria, support is available from the Centre for Non-Violence, which can be reached on 5430 3000 or free call within the Bendigo area on 1800 884 292
- Men looking to end their violent or abusive behaviour can call the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491
- Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative provides support to Aboriginal women experiencing family violence; the organisation’s phone number is 5442 4947
- In an emergency, call triple zero
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