Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse:

While love and abuse should not coexist they often do, and women and children are most often on the receiving end of domestic/family violence. Exploring the connections between love and abuse and understanding abuse survivors’ hopes for love help us to understand their responses to abuse. This is important to prevent the blaming or pathologising of victims as those who ‘are drawn to it’, ‘get used to it’ or ‘know no better’. From a feminist and critical social work perspective it is important to understand the connections between love and abuse—not just as they can play out in heterosexual human/family relations between men and women—but across diverse family arrangements including those between humans and their pets.

The link between human and animal violence is well established in and beyond Australia. It is important for social workers and other health and welfare professionals to pay attention to this, and consider the ethics associated with, and needs of pets/companion animals. Fears for animal companions left with violent perpetrators is a well-cited reason for some women (and their children) remaining with violent partners. Connections between humans and animals can be soothing and healing, especially after violent episodes and/or high moments of crisis. Recognising and publicising these positive and often undervalued connections is important, perhaps no more so than for socially and economically disadvantaged communities, such as those in the northern region of Adelaide, liable to being stereotyped as violent and dangerous places to live. Appreciating the needs of children affected by domestic/family violence is part of this project.

Visual Methods for Human-Animal Research:

Depictions of human animal relationships are a constant part of the social landscape yet most scholarly analyses rely on traditional methods of spoken interviews and/or written surveys.  This project addresses this issue by purposefully involving photographic and other artwork. Visual images are a potentially powerful and productive way to engage a wide range of people, including those with limited English/literacy skills, both as direct participants (artists/photographers) or viewers of the rolling exhibition. They can also help to represent non-human animals.

There are two parts to this collaborative project:

  1. The community exhibition project Domestic violence and the family pet (led by Northern Domestic Violence Service (NDVS), and Relationships Australia, South Australia (RASA, North) [not covered on this website], and,
  2.  The research project Loving you, Loving me: domestic violence and companion animals: (led by Flinders researchers Fraser and Taylor) [covered here on this site].

Project Aims:

  • Raise community awareness of the link between domestic/family violence for women, child and companion animal survivors.
  • Explore the importance of human-animal connections for many people (adults and children, Indigenous and non-Indigenous) especially during family crises and/or while recovering from domestic abuse.
  • Recognise the existing work occurring in the northern suburbs of Adelaide that help to foster ongoing bonds with animals for women and children escaping domestic/family violence.
  • Design a project that had a visual component so the animals could feature prominently.
  • Consider the impact of domestic violence and recovery on animals.
  • Connect with service providers about our shared interests
  • Allow the focus to shift from perpetrators to victim/survivors experiences and their bonds with animal companions.


This is a website for a research project. As such we cannot offer you help if you or your animals are currently experiencing domestic violence. If you need help please consider contacting Pets in Crisis.

Suggested Further Reading:

Currie, C. (2006). Animal cruelty by children exposed to domestic violence. Child Abuse & Neglect, 30(4): 425-435.

Degenhardt, 2005, B. (2005). Statistical Summary of Offenders Charged with Crimes against Companion Animals July 2001-July 2005. Report from the Chicago Police Department.

DeGue, S., & DiLillo, D. (2009). Is animal cruelty a “red flag” for family violence? Investigating co-occurring violence toward children, partners, and pets. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 24, 1036−1056.

Flynn, C. (2012). Understanding Animal Abuse: A Sociological Analysis. New York: Lantern Books.

Petersen, M.L., & Farrington, D.P. (2007). Cruelty to animals and violence to people. Victims and Offenders, 2, 21-43.

Riggs, D., Fraser, H., Taylor, N., Signal, T. and Donovan, C. (In press). Domestic violence service providers’ capacity for supporting transgender women: Findings from an Australian workshop. British Journal of Social Work.

Ryan, T. (Ed.). (2014). Animals in Social Work: Why and how They Matter. Palgrave.

Taylor, N. (2013). Humans, Animals, and Society: An Introduction to Human-Animal Studies. New York: Lantern Books.

Taylor, N. and Signal, T. (2009). An overview of the research. In Linzey, A, ed. The Link between Animal Abuse and Human Violence. Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press, pp. 297-301.

Volant, A.M., Johnson, J.A., Gullone, E., & Coleman, G.J. (2008). The relationship between domestic violence and animal abuse: An Australian Study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23, 1277−1295.