RSPCA Cymru has welcomed a move by the Welsh Government to include a specific reference to pets in documentation linked to its Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill.
RSPCA Cymru have campaigned for the law to recognise issues regarding pets in abusive settings, and discussions took place at Stages 2 and 3 of the legislative process, after amendments were tabled by Jocelyn Davies AM.
Family pets can be used as a tool to manipulate and control victims; often preventing vulnerable individuals or families from fleeing abusive relationships.
Pets, as such, are often utilised by perpetrators as a form of coercive control to inhibit a victim’s freedom; and as such can also become victims of abuse themselves.
Since 2002, the RSPCA has operated the PetRetreat scheme. This seeks to arrange foster care for the pets of those fleeing domestic abuse. The RSPCA was the first animal welfare organisation to deliver such a service.
Within the scheme, care for animals can be offered, via a network of fosterers, until the owner has a new, safe place to live. This scheme has the backing of support groups for victims.
RSPCA Cymru’s head of external affairs, Claire Lawson, said: “We are pleased that the Bill’s explanatory notes now include a specific reference to pets.
“This states that violence perpetrated against victim’s pets could constitute abuse against the victim themselves.
“We’ve long campaigned for this Bill to recognise the role of pets in abusive situations, and welcome the Welsh Government’s proposed developments on this.
“We would also like to thank Jocelyn Davies AM for championing this issue.
“Should the Bill become law, we hope its framework – including the introduction of a National and local strategies – acknowledges the role pet fostering schemes can play in enabling individuals to escape abuse. It is vital such issues are also understood by any Ministerial Adviser.”
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