Animals included in family violence legislation

Hume Community Grant Ceremony

Published December 07 2021

Since 2016, Merri Health has advocated for reform to family violence legislation to better protect victims and their pets, through the Keeping our Pets Safe (KOPS) project.

An initiative of our Victims Assistance Program (VAP), KOPS works to increase awareness of companion animals as both victims, and a barrier, to fleeing family violence.

Merri Health has partnered with seven Northern Metropolitan councils and the nation-wide Lucy’s Project to identify animal-friendly respite services to assist victims leaving, address legislation and upskill councils to respond to the need to keep animals safe.

In 2021, the Victorian Parliament unanimously passed a motion to recognise that animal abuse is a form of family violence, animals are vulnerable in the context of family violence, companion animals are considered family members, and in our laws, companion animals are considered property.

Merri’s VAP and KOPS were acknowledged by MP Fiona Patten for addressing the needs of families and their animals experiencing family violence. We also secured a grant from the City of Moreland to work with Women’s Health in the North (WHIN) to deliver family violence training to veterinary clinic workers.

On December 15, KOPS leader, Jo Seymour, received a Hume City Community Grant to continue supporting the project. This grant will assist Jo to engage with veterinary practitioners in the Hume City Council and surrounding areas and provide education and training so they can better respond to family violence in families where there is a companion animal.

This is the third grant Jo has successfully applied for as part of her work with KOPS, the others being from Moreland Council and Darebin Council.

We will continue to support researchers from Melbourne University to investigate the impact of family violence on victim survivors and their companion animals, and continue to work with the Victorian chapter of Lucy’s Project to advocate for the rights of family violence victims with companion animals.

Pictured: Jo Seymour receiving the grant