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Integrating human and animal support urged in crises

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Evidence shows human and animal support services should be integrated to avoid people having to relinquish their pets in a time of crisis.

Keeping them often results in better healthcare outcomes for both the owner and their animal.

Sonya McDowall, a PhD student, wants policymakers to understand the documented positive outcomes when human support services work with animal support services.

“It’s cost-effective for the community, and people are healthier if they can keep their animals during a time of crisis,” McDowall said.

“Social, physical and economic factors affecting human health can easily flow onto pets and companion animals.”

A 2020 survey by Domestic Violence NSW found that 42% of respondents said victim-survivors delayed leaving a perpetrator for over 12 months due to barriers to accessing support related to their animals.

A recent U.S. survey showed that 91% of people had experienced some degree of financial stress in the past year related to the cost of pet care.

Statistics from relevant research:

  • In Australia, social return on investment for programs that support people experiencing a crisis to help keep their companion animal is $8.21 for each $1 invested, (Source: Emergency Animal Boarding: A Social Return on Investment)
  • Even before the cost of living and rental market crisis, a study in the United States found between 35.1% and 42.1% of participants relinquished their pet due to moving as the landlord would not allow pets. (Source: Moving as a reason for pet relinquishment: a closer look)
  • Studies have shown that between 26% and 71% of female companion animal guardians experiencing family violence reported that the offender had seriously harmed or killed the companion animal.
  • 48% of domestic violence survivors are reportedly hesitant to escape their domestic violence environment due to the fact of being concerned about what will happen to the family pet. (Source: An exploratory study of domestic violence: Perpetrators’ reports of violence against animals)
  • 18%–48% of domestic violence survivors have delayed entering a domestic violence shelter due to the presence of welfare concerns for their pets that they have had to leave behind.
  • Foodbank Australia hunger report 2022 highlighted that over half a million people in Australia are struggling with the cost of food; of this population 67% have pets. This has resulted in a challenge for pet owners, of which studies have reported between 30% and 50% of participants identifying that having access to low-cost or free pet food would have prevented them from relinquishing their pet.
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