20 April 2011

Help is on the way for victims of domestic violence and their pets

This month the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) launched a new set of tools on its website for victims of domestic violence who want to escape the situation they’re in, but worry about the safety of their pets.

According to AWI, “When animal abuse occurs in the family, other violence is also likely to be present, and vice versa.” Most shelters will not accept pets and many people are afraid to leave their pet or pets behind for fear that their abuser will harm the animal. Often these people will refuse to get themselves to safety until they can be sure their pet will be safe as well.

The online resources that AWI is providing include a searchable tool that will let people enter their zip code and find Safe Havens for Pets of Domestic Violence Victims. These can be foster homes, humane societies or nonprofit groups that work directly with local domestic violence prevention services. These safe havens will shelter pets for victims of domestic violence confidentially while they and their children seek safety.

In addition to the searchable database of safe havens, AVI is also offering tip sheets on safety planning for pets of domestic violence victims, pets in protection orders, questions about pets to ask domestic violence victims calling the hotline or during intake.

David LaBahn, president and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys supports the new tools. “When there is violence in the home, everyone suffers,” he said. “As prosecutors, we know that abusers take out their rage on the family pets as a way to exert more power and control over children, spouses, even their elderly parents. AWI is providing a great service by making so many resources available in one place for victims of family violence as well as for prosecutors, law enforcement, and service providers. We appreciate their ongoing leadership in this area.”

For more information, visit the Animal Welfare Institute’s Animals and Family Violence page.

Sara Best | @shbest
Sara was literally born into the animal welfare movement. While growing up, her father worked with various organizations on campaigns from the Canadian seal hunt to the slaughter of dogs in the Philippines to the ivory trade in Africa. Eventually, Sara became involved in animal protection projects herself. Now she is a writer living near Toronto, a mom to two little omnivores and married to one dedicated carnivore. Visit Sara's blog.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/sephiroty