Abused women stay with their partners on average two years longer over fears their pets will be tortured or killed, a joint SPCA and Women's Refuge study has found.
Research for the report titled "Pets as Pawns" involved interviewing 30 abused women, surveying 200 Women's Refuge clients and collaborating the findings of refuge and SPCA staff.
The findings were released on Wednesday morning.
Of the abused women interviewed, 20 per cent said they stayed in the relationship over fears their pets would be injured or killed if they left.
Sixty per cent said they did not stay exclusively for their pets but said through a process of abuse involving animal cruelty they had gradually lost confidence and developed an overwhelming fear of leaving.
The length of time the women stayed with their partners because of these fears ranged from one week to 22 years.
"In some ways, pets and other animals become part of an arsenal of tricks abusers use to instil fear and control over their family," Women's Refuge chief executive Heather Henare says.
Animal cruelty was used to stop women leaving a relationship, as a display of jealousy, as a punishment for bad behaviour, as a threat to stop women calling the police and to isolate women and children from family and friends.
The research also found some Women's Refuge clients said they experienced abuse involving sex with animals.
Thirty five per cent said a farm animal or pet in their care had been injured or killed by their partner at some point during their relationship with 25 per cent of respondents saying this had taken place in the last two years.
The report recommended increased funding to support abused women with animals when they left their partners, including temporary accommodation for pets.
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