An American state legislature has recently followed other U.S. states including Massachusetts and Connecticut in passing legislation to allow domestic violence protective orders to include pets. Victorian legislation, whilst recognising that threats against pets can constitute family violence, does not extend so far as to include pets in family violence orders.
As animal lovers at Nicholes family Lawyers, we applaud the approach taken by these American states in extending protective orders to pets.
In Victoria, the definition of family violence is broad in recognition of the wide ranges of behaviour that a perpetrator may use to abuse, harass or control a family member.
Section 5(2) of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 specifically includes reference to behaviour against a family pet as including “causing or threatening to cause the death of, or injury to, an animal, whether or not the animal belongs to the family member to whom the behaviour is directed so as to control, dominate or coerce the family member.
It is an under reported reality that pets are often exploited by perpetrators of family violence to punish and control family members, predominantly women and children. One of the reasons a woman may be hesitant to report family violence or delay leaving an abusive relationship might be her reluctance to leave a family pet behind.
If you or someone you know is experiencing manipulation and control by virtue of threats made against a family pet, it may constitute family violence and give rise to grounds for a Family Violence Intervention Order to protect that person.
Safe Steps, a community organisation that assists women and children experiencing family violence recognises the interrelationship between family violence and abuse against pets and as part of its service providing emergency accommodation to women and children escaping family violence , also offers a service finding safe accommodation for pets.
Should you or anyone you know require the assistance of SafeSteps or their Pets in Crisis program please contact SafeSteps on 1800 015 188. Alternatively we are able to assist in providing advice regarding Family Violence Intervention Orders, the way in which Family Violence intervention Orders interrelate with Family Law and how to obtain a Family Violence Intervention Order.
We’re hoping that in future, Australia may follow the lead of the United States and extend the protections afforded by family violence intervention orders to our family pets.