Domestic violence & pet abuse

Pets are often the hidden victims of domestic violence

The issue

Cruelty to animals is common in domestic violence. People who use violence will often threaten, injure and even kill a pet to control family members. The impact this has on children who bear witness to this abuse can be long lasting.

Fear for their beloved pet’s safety is one reason people, usually women, delay leaving their abuser. Most can’t take their pets with them when seeking refuge and fear they will be harmed or killed if they’re left behind.

Pet Refuge will help to remove that barrier to leaving by giving these pets a safe, temporary home with the end goal of reuniting with them with their family.


New Zealand has the highest reported rate of family violence in the OECD. New Zealand also has the second highest rate of pet ownership globally.  

Research has established that where women are at risk, animals are also at risk.

2018 Women’s Refuge research of women whose partners had abused or threatened to abuse their pets found:

  • 22% of children witnessed pet abuse
  • 23% had an animal killed by their partner
  • 53% delayed leaving family violence out of fear for their pet’s safety
  • 73% would have found it easier to leave if there was a shelter offering temporary accommodation for their pets

Read the Women's Refuge 'Pet Abuse as part of Intimate Partner Violence' Research. 

How can I get help?

Once the shelter opens its doors in mid 2021, Pet Refuge will assist pets affected by family violence nationwide. 

If you are wanting help now, call the Women’s Refuge crisis line on 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843. If you are in immediate danger please call 111.

If you are looking for temporary care for your pet while you escape violence, we suggest reaching out to local animal rescues to see if they can help. 

These and other organisations will be able to help you with information and support with family violence:

Women's Refuge

The New Zealand Police

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