Violence against family animals in the context of intimate partner violence


Evidence shows a link between intimate partner violence (IPV) and violence against family animals. Violence against family animals may be an indicator of frequent and severe forms of IPV and result in unique or additional barriers to victim-survivors when seeking support.

This presentation is based on the findings of a rapid literature review and evidence synthesis, consisting of Australian and international studies. Findings from the review provide insights into: (1) what violence against family animals looks like in an IPV context; (2) violence against family animals as a form of coercive control; and (3) impacts on victim-survivors: including psychological and physical wellbeing, impacts on capacity to leave a violent relationship, and impacts on children and family animals.

The presentation will conclude with some practice and service delivery insights, drawn from the literature and relevant to an Australian audience, about: (1) screening for experiences of violence against family animals; (2) supporting victim-survivors with safety planning; (3) strengthening systemic responses including improving access to services that support both human and animal needs; and (4) strengthening relationships between IPV support services, animal welfare organisations and law enforcement.

Although a substantive and recent body of research exists, violence against family animals in the context of IPV remains a relatively hidden topic. A key contribution of this presentation is to raise awareness about the issue and provide an overview of key considerations to help strengthen support for victim-survivors who have experienced violence against family animals in an IPV context.


Butler, K. & MacDonald, J. B. (2024). Violence against family animals in the context of intimate partner violence. Australian Institute of Family Studies Conference, 11–14 June. Melbourne, Australia. (Poster)