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Keeping Your Pets Safe

petsInternational Homeless Animals Day is on Saturday, August 16th this year. There are many reasons why beloved animals may become homeless: overpopulation due to lack of spaying and neutering, pet owners who decide they no longer wish to keep their pets, pets that run away from home, pets who are abused by their owners. Many pets are also displaced as a result of domestic violence.

According to Safe Place for Pets, up to 65% of domestic violence victims are unable to escape their abusive partners because they are concerned about what will happen to their pets when they leave. In many cases, victims of domestic violence may try to take their pets with them when they are able to leave the relationship, but find that their local domestic violence shelters do not accept pets. Fortunately, this is changing, and shelters for domestic violence and abuse victims are beginning to create spaces for pets. Thanks to the Animal Welfare Institute’s Safe Havens Mapping Project, it’s becoming easier to locate shelters that accept pets.

Check out the Pets & DV page on our website and click to find shelters in your area.

If you are in an abusive relationship and have pets in your home, it can be a good idea to make your pets part of your safety plan. Here are a few suggestions for safety planning with pets:

  • If possible, don’t leave pets alone with an abusive partner.
  • If you’re thinking about getting a protective order, consider that some states allow pets to be a part of these.

If you are planning to leave:

  • Talk to friends, family or your veterinarian about temporary care for your pet. If that is not an option, search by state or zip code for services that assist domestic violence survivors with safekeeping for their pets. Try zip code first, and if there are no results, try a search by state. If none of the results are feasible for your situation, try contacting your local domestic violence or animal shelter directly. For help finding an animal shelter, visit the Humane Society website.
  • Take steps to prove ownership of your pet: have them vaccinated and license them with your town, ensuring that these registrations are made in your name (you can change them if they aren’t).
  • Pack a bag for your pet that includes:

- food
- medicine
- documents of ownership (receipts from adoption or purchase of pet, license to establish ownership, receipts for animal purchases)
- health documents (veterinary or vaccination records)
- leash
- ID and rabies tag, if a dog or cat (these will also help establish ownership)
- carrier
- toys
- bedding

  • If you must leave without your pet, remember to leave enough food, fresh bedding, litter, etc. for your pet.
  • If you’ve had to leave your pet behind with your abusive partner, try to ask for assistance from law enforcement officials or animal control to see if they can intervene.

If you are able to leave with your pet:

  • Keep pets indoors (if possible)
  • Avoid leaving the pet outside alone
  • Pick a safe route and time to walk your pet
  • Don’t exercise or walk pet alone
  • Change your veterinarian

Remember, your situation is unique, and these tips may not work for everyone. You can always call or chat with an advocate at the Hotline for more information. We can help you brainstorm ways to keep yourself and your pets safe!

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Finding Safety for Our Four-Legged Friends

For any pet owner that’s tossed a Frisbee in the park with their dog or taken a cat nap curled up beside their feline friend, it should come as no surprise that it’s not easy to just leave an animal behind. Pets can be like family — and if you’re contemplating leaving a bad relationship, the question of what will happen to your pet can become an important deciding factor.

Thankfully this topic is becoming more public in the news lately. A new law in Texas, for instance, ensures that pets can now be included in protective orders, and the Urban Resource Institute just became NYC’s first shelter to allow pets.

We know that there’s still progress to be made, though, because there’s an unmistakable correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse. In one study of domestic violence shelters across the country, 85.4 percent of shelter directors encountered cases in which victims disclosed animal abuse.

Animal Abuse and Domestic AbuseNDVH-pets2

A pet can often become a tool for an abusive partner to hold power and control in the relationship. By threatening or enacting violence against a pet, the abuser can further terrorize the victim, punish them and enforce submission.

Concern for the safety of pets is also a reason that many victims stay in an abusive relationship. There may be threats made against the wellbeing of their pets if they don’t stay, or they don’t know what will happen to the pets if they leave.

Safety Planning With Pets

If you’re creating a safety plan of your own to leave an abusive relationship, safety planning for your pets is important as well. Bring extra provisions for them, copies of their medical records and important phone numbers.

If possible, don’t leave pets alone with your abuser. If you’re planning on leaving, look for domestic violence shelters that accept pets or foster care programs at animal shelters. You can also talk to friends, family or your veterinarian about temporary care for your animal.

If you’ve had to leave your pet behind with the abusive partner, try to ask for assistance from law enforcement officials or animal control to see if they can intervene.

Take steps to prove ownership of your pet: have them vaccinated and license them with your town, ensuring that these registrations are made in your name (change them if they aren’t).

If you’re thinking about getting a protective order, know that some states allow pets to be a part of these.

If you’ve left your abuser, ensure the safety of your pet by changing veterinarians and avoid leaving pets outside alone.

What Loved Ones Can Do

The correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse is increasingly recognized by many individuals and organizations, so cross reporting of violence by law enforcement officials, vets, teachers, social workers and other professionals is becoming more common. Working together, these agencies can help one another become informed about possible abuse.

If you’re a friend or family member of someone who you suspect may be in an abusive relationship, noticeable animal abuse could be a further indication that there’s also intimate partner abuse. Begin by talking to them about the animal abuse and take steps to report it.

Resources and Further Reading:

  • A New York Times Article discusses what is referred to as “The Animal-Cruelty Syndrome
  • The Animal Welfare Institute has the Safe Havens Mapping Project for Pets of Domestic Violence Victims, which maps shelters state by state that allow you to bring pets. If there is no listing for your area, call a local shelter and ask about temporary assistance for pets in domestic violence situations
  • If you’re thinking of placing your pet at a shelter, the Humane Society has a database of local locations and FAQ’s about shelters
  • Check the Pets 911.com website for local rescue groups and emergency vets
  • Organizations like Georgia-based Ahimsa House and Littlegrass Ranch in Texas offer advice for safety planning with animals, especially with non-traditional animals like horses that are more difficult to transport
  • RedRover offers different grant programs to enable victims to leave their batterers without having to leave their pets behind. The grants must be submitted by a shelter worker. You can also now search for shelter locations by zip code at SafePlaceforPets.org.