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Animal Studies Journal

Abstract

In the last two decades, there has been a growing interest in connections between animal abuse and intra-familial violence. Research from the United States (US) has promoted awareness around this connection, and the implications, including for household companion and other animals, when identifying, assessing risk and responding to domestic and family violence (DFV). Compared with the US, United Kingdom (UK), New Zealand (NZ) and Canada, Australia’s inclusion of animals in its DFV services’ responses is minimal. Furthermore, a preventive perspective to minimise adult abuse of both humans and their animals, that highlights animal abuse in domestic violence school awareness programs, appeared absent in Australia at the time of this project. This paper explores the significance of this issue and examines the effectiveness of such a pilot program in one Australian all-boys school. The program aimed to increase young males’ level of knowledge of animal welfare and bonds with humans; increase their understanding of the links between animal abuse and domestic and family violence; produce a change in attitudes towards and increase empathy for animals and females; and instil an enhanced sense of responsibility towards nurturing and protection of animals. Additionally, it was hoped the program would increase young males’ level of confidence to intervene safely in situations of abuse if witnessed. The program demonstrates how a school education program has potential to heighten young people’s awareness of animal abuse and its link with human violence. Findings from the pilot suggest that increases in post-presentation knowledge, attitudes, interest and confidence of young males provide a platform for a significant public education program in agencies and educational institutions. Innovative programs that integrate animal abuse in the context of domestic and family violence, we suggest, provide a foundation for promoting the inclusion of animals in Domestic and Family Violence and Veterinarian policies, service standards, guidelines and practice.

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