A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Animal abuse and domestic violence

  • Approximately 60% of domestic violence victims stay in abusive relationships because they don’t want to leave their pet behind.
  • 15% return to violent homes because of fear for their animals.
  • Head trauma is one of the most common non-accidental injuries for pets in domestic violence.
  • Dogs are the most common type of animal to be abused. (cats second)

Those are facts I learned last week when I went to a free lunchtime training about animal abuse and domestic violence. In this post I will be sharing the things which the panel of presenters talked about.

So much more needs to be done in the intersection between family violence and animal abuse. But the things that ARE being done are inspiring.

A trigger warning might be appropriate for those who have suffered domestic abuse.

Lucy’s Project is the peak organisation for ‘the link” (between animal abuse and domestic violence) in Australia. Here is what they say about their work:

Lucy’s Project recognizes that we fail to save human domestic violence victims lives when we fail to address the whole family – paws and all. Companion animals are often cited as the reason a victim returns to an abusive home, the inability to secure pet friendly accommodation the reason for increased homelessness for predominately women victims and their children. We recognize the trauma inflicted when beloved animals are abused as punishment, as a threat or means of control . We recognize the very particular trauma this inflicts on children and the special approach needed to help children heal. We recognize the role of many different fields and professions in responding to the intersection of companion animal ownership and domestic violence including vets, doctors, animal welfare organisations, crisis response systems, police, refuges, housing bodies, transitional homes and government. We recognize that working together as a coordinated network is imperative to the overall goal of saving lives, improving the quality of life for survivors and helping child survivors to thrive into adulthood.

  • 53% of women who experienced domestic violence reported the deliberate injury or killing of their companion animal (Gullone, 1994).
  • 19% of women who experienced domestic violence reported that their children had abused a pet.
  • 88% of families receiving services for child abuse had also abused their pets (Davidson, 1988).
  • 96% of animal abusers had also abused children (Humane Society, 2002).
  • Children exposed to domestic violence are three times more likely to engage in acts of animal abuse than their peers (Baldry 2005 and Currie 2006).

Founder, Anna Ludvik started Lucy’s Project on the 4th June, 2013 following the birth of her stillborn daughter, Lucy. [Anna says:]

I needed Lucy’s senseless death to have meaning and to make the world a better place. I realized during labour that although my first born, longed for baby would be born forever sleeping, I was privileged. I was safe and I was living, despite my suffering; not every woman was as safe as me that day, but many were also suffering.

I couldn’t think of a better legacy for my daughter’s name to be attached to. A cause that seeks to protect vulnerable women*, children and the animals who comforted me during the impossible darkness that follows deep emotional pain.

Every day I work hard in the hope that a child may live, a woman may thrive and an animal can happily frolic – because Lucy’s Project has recognized that animal protection is an intrinsic part of responding to the domestic violence crisis.

*Lucy’s Project acknowledges that although most victims of domestic violence identify as women, that men, people who identify as transgender or non binary can be victims too Furthermore, not all perpetrators are men or in heterosexual relationships. We do not discriminate.

Safe Pets Safe Families is an Australian registered charomeity. It is a network of people who understand the link between domestic abuse and animal abuse. Since 2014 they have been holding conferences which have led to lots of collaboration between organisations. Safe Pets Safe Families are:

—providing temporary / in crisis foster care for animals

—training and equipping foster carers for the animals

—running workshops for vets to raise their awareness of the link between animal abuse

—mapping holes in services

—helping with the transfer of registration of companion animals.

Why is this important? Because when the abusive human is the registered owner of the companion animal, and the abused human is far and away the best caregiver for the animal, getting the local council to transfer the animal’s registration can be tricky!

Pets in Peril is a program run by the specialist family violence service in Melbourne’s eastern metropolitan region. They provide crisis accommodation for animals and work with network of vets who assess the animals for injuries, provide vaccinations, assess the risk the animal is under, etc. They have only a small number of facilities for crisis accommodation. They wish they had more.

Cherished Pet Care is run by a vet in Geelong, the largest provincial city in Victoria, Australia. It is a social veterinary service, i.e., vet social work. It provides care for:

  • animals and their carers who are in crisis because of family violence
  • those who have suffered the bereavement of pet loss
  • vets who suffer burnout.

Violence Against Women and Children is a website of the Social Work Group at the University of Melbourne. One thing they are doing is researching the intersection of animal and domestic and family violence (click this link for more info).

All of these services, charities and volunteers are unable to meet the need that is out there.

Sometimes it is the vet who is the first medical professional to see the signs of family violence – article by Stuart Winthrope, University of Melbourne.

Statistics about family violence and animal abuse were given in this handout:

The free lunchtime training was run by MAEVe (Melbourne Research Alliance to End Violence against women and their children). I am glad I live in Melbourne where such good things happen.


  1. April

    Trigger Warning

    My ex was fanatical on the subject of “respect.” Everyone disrespected him. He was great with babies, but as soon as our children became a bit of independent thinkers, the verbal / mental abuse began. Early in our marriage, we had a rabbit and I’m not sure how, but the rabbit “disrespected” his orders. I remember watching him sit on some steps and hit my rabbit over and over and over in anger.

    Later on I had a dog (admittedly the naughtiest dog in the world, but I loved him). Once my ex hit him so hard, I took him to the vet, and the vet asked me if he had been hit by a car because this was the type of trauma sustained by a car.

    These were part of a collection of many, many, many red flags, but being in a mental fog all the time and believing marriage was a lock-down deal that could never be ended led me to stay for many more years. No more though. I believe abusers use animals both to control those they abuse and also because animals have pretty good radar for mean people and tend to not “respect” them.

    [Paragraph breaks added for readability, and a trigger warning added for reader protection. Editors.]

  2. daughterofgod

    There should be harsher penalties for animal abusers because it’s not just animals they are abusing. These type of people abuse anyone that’s weak or vulnerable.

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