News – 2017

The Link newsletter writes about our piece on companion animals insurance exclusions for DV victims/survivors.

The LINK newsletter is a great resource for anyone interested in human and animal directed violence.  In July 2017 it carried a write up of our work on pet insurance company policies that exclude domestic violence cover. The text from the article is below and the LINK letter can be found here.

Excluding Insurance Coverage for Pets Injured in Domestic Violence
Seen as Additional Stressor and Risk to Animals’ Well-Being.

In our March 2016 LINK-Letter, we posed an intriguing question arising from a domestic violence case in Sweden: a pet insurance company denied coverage for veterinary expenses incurred by a woman whose boyfriend had beaten her dog. The company argued that the situation was the same as if the woman had beaten her dog, an act that was not covered by the policy. We asked whether such insurance exclusions were the same in the U.S. or elsewhere.

We now know that in Australia, the situation is similar. Writing in a forthcoming issue of the Violence Against Women journal, Tania Signal, Nik Taylor, Karena Burke and Luke Brownlow describe what they call “double jeopardy.” The overlap of animal harm and insurance discrimination for victims and survivors of domestic violence results in many adverse implications. The authors note that the extensive literature to date on how animals are harmed as coercive control in domestic violence has neglected to address the medical costs of Tania Signal such actions and the role that insurance companies play in paying for what are often very costly visits – particularly in areas where veterinarians are mandated to report suspected abuse. Given that domestic violence survivors may have limited access to financial resources (which may be deliberately withheld by the abuser) this issue becomes highly significant. “Refusal to pay for services accrued, and/or forcing women to pay back insurance money erroneously given, might well lead to both financial and/or emotional stress providing another barrier for disclosure of violence for the women involved,” they write.

The authors reviewed 32 Australian insurance companies whose policies cover animals (10 offering supplementary companion animal coverage as part of a home and contents policy, and 22 standalone pet insurance providers) and the ways by which injury to pets were defined and covered. All 10 of the supplemental policies, and 21 of the standalone pet insurers, deny coverage for deliberate harm to an insured animal, whether the injury was at the hands of a stranger or a family member. The authors note that the prevalence and extent of disallowed claims due to nonaccidental injury clauses is unknown. While insurance discrimination towards domestic violence victims and survivors has been researched, no one has hitherto extended this to considerations of animal companions and their welfare within the context of domestic violence.

Karena Burke “This has implications for human victims of domestic violence, adding emotional and financial stress to an already difficult and crisis-ridden time in their lives,” they wrote. “Clearly, animal well-being may also be affected if there is an increased likelihood that veterinary treatment will not be sought.” They note the issue extends to animals harmed by children or as coercive control in elder abuse, and suggest one remedy may be to include coverage for harms perpetrated due to family violence, in unambiguous language.

“We believe that current policies regarding companion animal insurance fit into definitions of ‘insurance discrimination’, that is, that insurance companies penalize DV victims precisely because they are victims of domestic violence, and as a result such policies need to be considered in future research into humananimal abuse links. While the policies considered in the current research offer some ambiguity regarding who is considered a family member, it is worth noting that someone in crisis is unlikely to be in a position to argue their case and establish their fit under insurance policies.”
— Signal, T., Taylor, N., Burke, K.J., & Brownlow, L. (2017, in press). Double jeopardy:
Insurance, animal harm and domestic violence. Violence Against Women. doi: 10.1177/1077801217711266


New paper: Quantity Does Not Always Mean Quality: The Importance of Qualitative Social Science in Conservation Research

Qualitative methods are important to gain a deep understanding of complex problems and poorly researched areas. They can be particularly useful to help explain underlying conservation problems. However, the significance in choosing and justifying appropriate methodological frameworks in conservation studies should be given more attention to ensure data are collected and analysed appropriately. We explain when, why, and how qualitative methods should be used and explain sampling strategies in qualitative studies. To improve familiarity with qualitative methods among natural scientists, we recommend expanding training in social sciences and increasing collaboration with social scientists. Given the scale of human impacts on the environment, this type of nuanced analytical skill is critical for progressing biodiversity conservation efforts.


Media Coverage of Equine Assisted Therapy

One of our members featured in this media coverage of the benefits of equine assisted therapy.  More about the Phoenix House project research can be found here.


Media Coverage of our Loving You, Loving Me: Domestic Violence and Companion Animals research project.

8586330-3x2-700x467Online story about our research project can be found here


New Publication

Although the role of companion animals within the dynamic of domestic violence (DV) is increasingly recognized, the overlap of animal harm and insurance discrimination for victims/survivors of DV has not been considered. Prompted by a case study presented in a National Link Coalition LINK-Letter, this research note examines “Pet Insurance” policies available in Australia and whether nonaccidental injury caused by an intimate partner would be covered. We discuss the implications of exclusion criteria for victims/survivors of DV, shelters providing places for animals within a DV dynamic, and, more broadly, for cross- or mandatory-reporting (of animal harm) initiatives.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1077801217711266


Critical Animal and Media Studies: Communication for Nonhuman Animal Advocacy: Review

9781138842267Review of Núria Almiron, Matthew Cole and Carrie P. Freeman, (Eds) Critical Animal and Media Studies: Communication for Nonhuman Animal Advocacy, Routledge 2016 that Nik has a chapter in.


Loving Me, Loving You: Women and children illustrate what it means to survive domestic/family violence with their animal companions

loki-and-bailey Loving You, Loving Me – June 9th, 2017.

DV exhibition image onlyThis project reflects an alliance between Flinders University researchers (Heather and Nik), the Northern Domestic Violence Service and Relationships Australia, South Australia (North) and uses photography, art and interviews to explore how women and children illustrate what it means to them to survive domestic/family violence with their companion animals.

You can read about the Rescuing You, Rescuing Me book that will draw on this project – along with others we have conducted – to consider animals in domestic violence and abuse.  See our EVENTS page for more detail.


advertiser croppedLucy’s Project – 2017 conference will be held in Adelaide.

We will post more details here as we get them.

Meantime check out Lucy’s Project’s website, and a review of last year’s conference.