Tag Archives: animal shelters

“Allow pets in domestic violence shelters”- editorial

A great editorial piece in the The Register Citizen (Connecticut):

http://www.registercitizen.com/articles/2013/06/04/opinion/doc51ae66b26ac7c036148252.txt

Why do victims of domestic violence stay in an abusive situation? According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, as many as 40 percent say that it’s in part due to “fear of what would happen if they left their pets behind.” It is common for an abuser to threaten to hurt or kill a beloved animal.

We know how strong the emotional bond between people and their pets can be. It is so strong that in far too many instances, women and men are putting themselves and their children at risk of physical and emotional abuse because of it.

Most pet owners look at the animal as a family member, so leaving that pet behind would be much like abandonment to them. Leaving them to the care of a person who has already acted out violently toward humans.

Across the country, a simple solution is in the works. Domestic violence shelters are beginning to accept pets.

“As we witnessed during Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, pets are members of the family and no one should have to make the impossible decision to leave them behind during times of crisis,” said Nathaniel Fields, president of the Urban Resource Institute, which recently created 10 pet-friendly apartments in a Brooklyn domestic abuse shelter.

There are similar shelters in 25 states, but surprisingly, this is the first and only one in New York City, and the Humane Society of the United States lists none in Connecticut.

It costs money to open up separate living spaces that can accommodate animals, but government and charitable dollars directed at domestic violence prevention would be well-spent on addressing this problem.

In a culture where, according to the American Pet Products Association, more than $55 billion will be spent on pet care and products this year, there should be an opportunity for the charities that run domestic violence shelters to raise funds to help the pets of these victims.

Add to that, pets can help in the healing process, as medical professionals increasingly look to pet therapy to lessen the effects of depression. Victims of abuse clearly have much emotional healing to deal with. Having their beloved four-legged family members at their side can obviously help that process.

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DV shelters, animal shelters

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”:

  1. HAV-Link Coalition formed by Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region: http://www.wcswr.org/hav-human-animal-violence-link/
  2. Pet Safekeeping program at the Calgary Humane Society: http://www.calgaryhumane.ca/Page.aspx?pid=301
  3. Alberta Alliance for the Safety of Animals and People (AASAP) through the Alberta SPCA: http://www.albertaspca.org/neglect-abuse/cruelty-connection.html
  4. “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: