Caring for Pets While Their Families Cannot
Not only is there a significant chance that victims of domestic abuse will own a companion animal, but it is also highly likely that they will be reluctant to part with their pets due to strong, familial attachments to them. It is a sobering fact that nearly 25% of battered women will remain in an abusive situation out of fear for their pet’s safety, typically because they believe that their partner will harm or kill their pet.
These animals have an important impact on the emotional wellbeing of battered women, who often develop particularly strong bonds with their pets. In an environment of fear and abuse, a pet may provide the only source of unconditional love and companionship for the victim. The thought of parting with a beloved pet causes additional stress and anxiety, and it places the woman and her animals in danger by delaying their departure. In one particular study, 40% of women interviewed listed concern for their pets’ safety as the reason for delaying their arrival to the shelter.
In one particular study, 40% of women interviewed listed concern for their pets’ safety as the reason for delaying their arrival to the shelter.
Despite these facts and the demand for domestic violence programs to include pets, most women’s shelters do not allow animals on site. As unfortunate as it may be, given the potential liabilities from allergies, bites, and other factors—such as kennel construction, which many programs could not afford—it is understandable that many women’s shelters would restrict animals. That is why a service must be made available to fill in this gap so that victims of domestic violence do not have to make the choice between their pets and their own safety.
The Houston SPCA believes that victims of abuse should not have to lose their non-human family members to their abuser. Founded in 1996, Houston SPCA’s PetSafe program allows families to flee from domestic abuse without being forced to abandon their much-loved pets to a violent or life-threatening environment. Through PetSafe, animals are given temporary boarding, veterinary care, vaccinations, and spaying/neutering while their families work towards re-establishing a safe, stable life.
PetSafe exists through a partnership between the Houston SPCA and local women and family shelters. By partnering with these shelters, we are able to help human and non-human family members escape from violence and possible death.