Research shows that many abused women are reluctant to leave their abuser if they cannot bring their family pet with them. The abuser uses this to his/her advantage: “If you leave me, I’ll kill the dog/cat/hamster/etc.” Unfortunately, most DV (domestic violence) shelters do not accept pets, and victims of abuse are therefore forced to choose: either I stay with my abuser, or I leave my pet behind to be killed or tortured.
Some DV shelters are now finding ways to bring women, children, and pets to safety. Realizing that pets are members of the family, DV shelters are linking up with pet shelters and foster programs to offer confidential protection for all victims of abuse. The United States is much further ahead than Canada in this regard.
I currently volunteer with an organization in Chicago called the Safety Network for Abused Animals and People (SNAAP): http://snaapchicago.org/Home.html. The organization was originally started in Washington D.C.: http://safeanimalssafepeople.org/index.html. My goal is to start a similar program in Toronto.
In Canada, there are only four programs (that I know of) that are dealing with “the link”:
- HAV-Link Coalition formed by Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region: http://www.wcswr.org/hav-human-animal-violence-link/
- Pet Safekeeping program at the Calgary Humane Society: http://www.calgaryhumane.ca/Page.aspx?pid=301
- Alberta Alliance for the Safety of Animals and People (AASAP) through the Alberta SPCA: http://www.albertaspca.org/neglect-abuse/cruelty-connection.html
- “The Violence Link” through the British Columbia S.P.C.A.: http://www.spca.bc.ca/cruelty/the-violence-link.html
For a list of combined domestic violence shelter + animal shelter programs (primarily in the USA), please take a look at these links:
- Ahimsa House (Safe Havens Directory):http://www.ahimsahouse.org/directory
- Sheltering Animals & Families Together (SAF-T Directory): http://www.animalsandfamilies.org/shelters.html