When it comes to domestic violence, one of the many reasons victims don’t just up and leave is because their abusers have threatened their pets. An article in The Huffington Post says that more than 70 percent of pet owners fleeing to shelters said that their abuser had threatened, hurt, or even killed their beloved pet.
This is a frightening and terrible statistic. What’s worse is that most shelters do not accept pets, as they might accept children. Therefore, a man or woman who’s a victim of domestic violence may flee with their children, but can’t also take their pets unless they’re not going to a shelter. That keeps more victims captive to an abuser.
The Huffington Post article, which was written by Jen Reeder, discussed a possible new model for allowing pets into shelters. She spoke with Rita Garza, of the non-profit organization Urban Resource Institute, who said that a “co-sheltering model” would work to shelter abuse victims and their pets. Here’s why they’re working on that: Garza said that one victim’s abuser threatened to cook her cat in the microwave if she didn’t do what he said. Another saw her dog choked into unconsciousness. A third came home a few minutes late and found her cat tied up with duct tape. Her abuser threatened to do it any time she was late after that.
Because of all of that, the Urban Resource Institute has opened a program called URIPALS. URI stands for Urban Resource Institute, and PALS stands for People and Animals Living Safely. This program accepts pets at their Urban Women’s Safe Haven Shelter, and is the first domestic violence shelter to accept pets in New York City.
But they’re not the first in the U.S., which is a good thing. SAF-T shelters may also accept pets. Allie Phillips founded the SAF-T program in 2008, writing guides so that shelters could learn how to safely house pets with their families. SAF-T is now a global initiative, with over 70 participating shelters in the U.S.
But, despite all that, there may still be issues with shelters participating in SAF-T taking pets. Another issue is that not all victims may be able to reach the shelters listed on her site. These victims can also go here to try and find safe places for their pets.
As Garza told Reeder, “Pets are the silent victims for abusers who want to exert extreme power and control. This happens all the time.”
Creating safe places for pets as well as human victims gives these victims another avenue to safety, and helps to remove one of the control methods abusers use to keep their victims captive. There’s a long way to go, but people like Rita Garza and Allie Phillips are helping to eliminate this roadblock to safety for victims of domestic violence.