Women of all ages have told a researcher about the terror they felt for themselves and their children after seeing their partners cruelly hurt their pet animals.
Three-quarters of 203 women with animals who were surveyed in 21 women's refuges said their partners had either threatened to hurt animals, or actually did hurt or kill them, usually as a way of controlling the women or to punish them.
A third said they stayed in the relationship either "somewhat" or "completely" because they were scared that their partner would hurt the animals if they left.
The survey, sponsored jointly by Women's Refuge and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, provides the first New Zealand data on the link between animal abuse and domestic violence.
Unitec animal behaviour expert Arnja Dale, who chairs the First Strike group linking animal welfare and family violence agencies, said violence against animals was a red flag that people in a home might also be at risk.
Criminologist Michael Roguski, who did the survey, said he had never found more depth of emotion than when he asked abused women to talk about how their pets had suffered.
A 20-year-old woman told him that her partner used to abuse her cat as a way of saying, "This is what I will do to you if you don't toe the line."
A 70-year-old told how her husband chopped her budgie's head off saying, "This is what I can do to you."
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