October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and National Animal Safety and Protection Month. Indeed, their missions are linked. A few years ago, a friend and I volunteered at our local domestic violence shelter. It was an excellent facility with separate rooms for each woman and her child(ren), a well-appointed shared kitchen, and a relaxing patio where the residents could smoke and sit and talk with one another. But there was one big thing missing.
Being an animal lover and pet parent my entire life, I wondered, where are the cats and dogs of the women who hide out here until they can get a new life plan? What will be their fate if this family explodes? I posed this question to the shelter director, who looked at me and sighed. "We just don't have room for pets," she said.
But studies have shown that pets often affect whether a victim will leave her abuser. While many batterers focus on their partner, some turn to the children. Still, others use threats against the family cat, dog, or other pet as a means of control. Sadly, many batterers make good on their threats. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that over 1 million animals a year are injured or killed in episodes of domestic violence.
According to Tamron Hall, a syndicated talk show host, "About 48% of people who live in homes where there is domestic violence don't leave because there's nowhere to take their pet." She further noted, "At the shelters in this country, only about 15% are currently equipped to take human survivors and their pets with them."
But that's changing fast, thanks to a few national organizations stepping up to help. A national dog and cat food company, Purina, initiated the Purple Leash Project in 2019. They are working with RedRover, a group that" helps animals rescued from disasters or neglect, domestic violence victims seeking safety with their pets, and animals in life-threatening situations."
Information about the Purple Leash Project indicates that 49 of 50 states now have at least one pet-friendly domestic violence shelter. The project's goal is to help make 25% of shelters in the U.S. pet-friendly by 2025. And they are putting their money where their mouth is by donating $2M toward that effort.
If you or anyone you know is in an abusive situation, but fear of leaving a defenseless pet at home is keeping you or the other person from leaving the abuser, know that there are now domestic violence shelters with facilities for animals. RedRover has an excellent directory of pet-friendly facilities across the U.S. at https://safeplaceforpets.org/
Quote to remember: "If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men." & “ St. Francis of Assisi
"Domestic violence victims hesitate before leaving their house as they fear leaving their pets behind"
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
"NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH"
"CSI: Animal Abuse"
"About the Purple Leash Project"