As we head into October, there’s more to consider than just pumpkin spice and Halloween costumes. October 1 kicks off Domestic Violence Awareness Month – and because we find this topic incredibly important, we’re taking a good look at how we can help both people and pets in abusive situations.
While animals may not always be our first focus when we think of domestic violence, they are a huge part of survivors’ concerns. Studies have found about 70 percent of survivors say their pets were also abused by the batterer. Up to 65 percent disclose that they are unable to escape because of concerns about leaving the animals behind.
Helping someone leave an abusive situation can require a lot of hard work – and the economics and politics of shelters have, in the past, prevented the desired outcome. But in recent years, the partnerships between animal welfare and human welfare organizations have strengthened, and the response to a need for pet-friendly shelters has been tremendous.
In 2008, only four pet-friendly domestic violence shelters existed in the United States. Now, there are at least 73, and the numbers are growing. The recent partnerships have also led to an increase in legislation surround pet welfare; many states now allow for the inclusion of pets in protective orders.
New legislation and the emergence of more shelters that accept pets is definitely part of the solution to helping survivors leave the abusive relationship more readily. Awareness of and access to those shelters, though, might still be a difficult leap for an individual to make without assistance.
If you are in a position to suggest resources, please use the following information:
If you are aware of a domestic violence threat of any kind:
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Network to End Domestic Violence
If you are part of a shelter organization or know of one that is looking to broaden its capabilities for sheltering animals:
RedRover.org has partnered with Sheltering Animals and Families Together (SAF-T) to create Domestic Violence Safe Housing grants that can help facilities become pet-safe spaces. Reach out to discuss options and grant applications.
If you are not aware of any threats currently, but still want to do your part:
Contact the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence for volunteer opportunities.
And spread the word. Distributing the RedRover information to your local shelters can be a great way to start.