Animals to be recognised under family violence reform

March 11, 2021 BY

Andy Meddick with fellow members of the Animal Justice Party, in front of Victorian Parliament where their motion was passed last week. Photo: SUPPLIED

THE Victorian Parliament has unanimously passed a motion that will recognise pets as victims of family violence.

Member of Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick called for the government to review the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 during last week’s parliamentary sitting.

About 60 per cent of domestic violence victims stay in abusive relationships because they do not want to leave their pet behind.

The motion followed report which showed that family violence cases increased by up 20 per cent in Geelong last year.

“It has been something that has flown under the radar but hiding in plain sight,” Mr Meddick said.

“The family pet becomes a confidante for children and comfort to the woman in the situation as they become isolated.

“The pet becomes their only real companion, and the males catch onto this so they threaten the life of the animal or harm them to stop their family from leaving.”

The successful motion calls for more funding to support victims and their animals through crisis accommodation, shifting ownership of the animals where necessary and recognising animals as victims capable of sustaining trauma.

“One aspect of the motion is if the woman chooses to leave the violent relationship, the animal’s ownership would transfer to her or a designated carer,” Mr Meddick said.

“Some crisis accommodation spaces are animal friendly, but they are very few in numbers, this motion calls on the government to provide for, in the budget, a number of measures for increasing this that is both animal friendly and long-term.”

The state government has committed to designating funds towards the review in the federal budget.

“The fact it passed unanimously says a lot about the support for these measures,” Mr Meddick said.

The Animal Justice Party is hoping for at least $1 million to be carved out of the state’s Big Build budget for social housing.

“We don’t expect everything to happen overnight, but government has committed to moving quickly on this,” Mr Meddick said.

RSPCA Victoria chief executive officer Dr Liz Walker said the link between family violence and animal abuse was well documented.

“Numerous studies have shown that in households experiencing domestic violence and abuse, there is also a high probability of animal abuse,” she said.

“We know that cruelty to animals is a strong marker for other forms of violence, so we are very supportive of any improvements to legislation that works to better protect both people and animals in these situations.”

Mr Meddick says the motion will go a long way in creating safer outcomes but more must be done.

“We have to listen to what women have to say,” he said. “It is quite ironic that I was bringing this motion to Parliament when we had a federal minister doing a masterclass in denial. Violence against women it is not a woman’s problem, it is a man’s problem.

“Aside from this action that will force change, it is up to all men everywhere to call out violence whenever they see it and it is not just physical; it’s economical abuse, it’s verbal abuse and it’s psychological abuse.”

The reform is expected to come into effect before the end of the year.

“We have worked on this for a long time and this motion has been a source of immense pride for my team,” Mr Meddick said.