By Wendy Williamson
Women and children fleeing family violence will have some of their concerns about their pets allayed under a new program being developed by Eastern Domestic Violence Service (EDVOS).
The program is called ‘A Place for Indi’ after a dog named Indi needed to find a new home after her owner fled to a refuge.
Research shows that 53 per cent of women in violent relationships who have pets reported their pets had also been abused or threatened.
Consequently, the presence of a pet can compromise a woman’s decision to leave a violent situation for fear of what may happen to her four-legged friend.
“Pets play an important role within families, with their welfare often being of prime importance for women and children facing family violence and making decisions to try and leave,” EDVOS executive director Jenny Jackson said.
“Many women delay such decisions due to concerns about the fate of their pets and the lack of opportunity to take their pets with them.”
Now, in recognition of the significance of pets in family violence situation, EDVOS has established ‘A Place for Indi.’
“There are very few women’s refuges in Australia which accommodate animals,” explained Ms Jackson. “Under ‘A Place for Indi’ we are working with a refuge in this region which has a strong interest in being able to accept small animals. It will be one of the first in Victoria. It’s very exciting.”
The new program will also expand the skills and capacity of the EDVOS workforce so that staff members know to ask questions and give women options if they are concerned about family pets.
“A Place for Indi is an expansion of the Pets in Peril program, where EDVOS worked with animal shelters to provide crisis accommodation for pets. This is still one option,” Ms Jackson said.
“The take-home message is that if women are thinking about leaving and have issues around their pets, they can ring us and we’ll help them with a range of options.”
Women who are at immediate risk should call police on triple-zero. Otherwise, the 24-hour crisis number for the Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre is 1800 015 188. EDVOS hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm and Saturday 9am to 5pm. Phone 9259 4200.