When someone is facing the hardest experience of her life, do pets matter?
Especially if the hard experience is trying to break away from a manipulative and violent partner or spouse.
There are no shortage of statistics. Seventy one percent of pet-owning women arriving in a domestic violence shelter report that their batterer threatened, injured, or killed their pet. And up to 40% of battered women have reported that fear for their pets caused them to stay in a violent home.
Although it’s increasingly clear that effective strategies to help people leave homes where they face domestic violence must include the victim’s pets, programs are slow to catch on.
New York City has 50 domestic violence shelters. But it was only in June of this year that New York has created its first shelter that allows a woman to keep a cat, fish, or small rodent. Hopefully, by the end of the year, they will have a single facility that allows women to move in with their dogs.
So what does this mean for Blog the Change for Animals? How can we help animals and their people trapped by domestic violence?
Let me tell you a story about some new friends of mine.
No domestic violence shelters in my area allows people to move in with their pets. However, our local no-kill shelter has an agreement to house pets who need temporary care while their family members are in a domestic violence shelter.
Earlier this year the shelter where I foster contacted me. A woman with two dogs needed someone to foster them while she arranged permanent housing. The humane society was overloaded and did not have room for any more dogs. Could I help?
I spoke to the woman’s social worker and we arranged for Honey and the two dogs to meet. Luckily, it was love at first sight.
The two dogs are possibly the best-socialized animals I’ve ever met—friendly, adaptable, and sweet as can be. It was obvious from the start that their human loves them very much and has given them a wonderful home.
So the two pups moved in.
We live near the shelter so M, the dog’s person, is able to come see them most days. The dogs, that I’ve nicknamed Li’l Punkin Butt (LPB) and Mr. Handsome (Mr. H.), keep a watch at the door for their “mom.” And Honey also adores M.
When M is not visiting, the dogs are playing together and making us laugh. And M is arranging permanent housing where she and her fuzzy butts will be together once again.
When LPB and Mr. H. move out, we’ll be very happy to see the family reunited. But we’ll miss our new friends.
I’ve been pleased to support, in one small way, someone doing something good for herself and her family. And in the spirit of Blog the Change, I’d like to suggest one way you can help women with pets trying to leave domestic abuse behind.
- Do some research. Ask your local advocacy agency for victims of domestic violence if they provide facilities for animals.
- If not, let them know you may be available to foster pets when needed.
If my experience with M, Li’l Punkin Butt and Mr. Handsome is any prediction, you won’t regret it. And you’ll be doing something good for people that is also good for dogs.
I’d like to thank M for giving me her permission to write about her and her family. And for allowing us to look after her precious furries.
Your Turn: Does your community provide helpful options for domestic violence victims with pets? Any innovative programs you can share?