Nearly half of all victims of domestic violence entering shelters say they put off leaving out of fear of what might happen to their pets. The Shelby Humane Society is now launching a new program to help ease that burden.
Many households consider their pets to be family members. In homes with domestic violence, abusers can use that bond to manipulate or control their victims. Even the threat of hurting an animal can be enough to get a spouse or other family member to do what the abuser wants.
The Shelby Humane Society's Safe Pet program is set to open in 2018, but it has already helped three families fleeing domestic abuse. Executive director, David Arias, describes the process with one family.
"We're still working with them. It's been about two months that we've had their dog sheltered," says Arias. "In the time it's taking them to find a new home."
Since few women's domestic violence shelters accept animals, many women and children remain in the abusive home for fear of leaving their pets. The Safe Pet program hopes to make their choice to seek safety a little easier.
"we're giving women the confidence to make the decision to get out of an abusive relationship," says Arias, who's been working with local domestic violence organizations to get the program off the ground. "There are so many barriers to that - psychological, financial, and relationships with their pets." They've received extensive guidance from the YWCA of Central Alabama and the Safe House organization.
Safe Pet aims to temporarily place the animals with foster families, boarding organizations, and veterinarians statewide. The pets will also receive medical care, vaccinations, and food until families get re-established.