Sheltering Pets from Domestic Violence

19 Sep

More than 40% of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations out of fear of what would happen if they left their pets behind. Not only that, but more than 70% of pet owners entering shelters to escape domestic violence report that the abuser has threatened, injured or killed family pets.Yet most shelters do not admit pets. Finding family or friends who will take in the victims of abuse AND their pets can be difficult.

Now, shelters are beginning to address this problem.domesticabusedog

Ahimsa House has been providing safe housing for pets belonging to those fleeing domestic abuse since 2004. They maintain a network of homes willing to offer safe, short-term housing for pets as their owners enter shelters to escape domestic abuse. Their website has a nationwide directory of safe havens for pets in domestic violence situations.

New York City’s first co-sheltering program was opened to enable domestic violence survivors and their pets to reside together. The project, called PALS—People and Animals Living Safely—is running as a six-month pilot that started June 1.

Although PALS only accepts cats and smaller animals such as hamsters, birds and fish into shelter now, the goal is to raise money to put the PALS program in three other domestic violence shelters and welcome dogs as well. 

Muriel Raggi, a domestic violence survivor who was in shelter four years ago, said she’s thankful to URI and the Alliance for recognizing how important pets are in people’s lives. “I remember lying in bed at night, with so many fears and worries swirling in my head, wishing I could have my dog Jasmine next to me to provide raw affection, comfort and support,” said Raggi. “ PALS will ensure that other survivors with pets won’t face the heartbreaking choices I did.”

Because pets are often used by abusers to maintain control over their victims, to torment them emotionally, or to get revenge, 25 states now offer court-ordered protection for pets. Such protection orders limit the contact an alleged abuser can have with the person seeking protection, ordering the abuser to stay away or allowing the victim safe access if they need to return to a home. In the case of an animal, it would allow victims to take a pet with them if they left home and prohibit the alleged abuser from harming the pet.


Posted by on September 19, 2013 in In the News


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2 responses to “Sheltering Pets from Domestic Violence

  1. Ann

    September 20, 2013 at 10:23 am

    As a retired law enforcement officer, I often encountered these very heart breaking situations where the abused person had to leave their beloved pet behind. Many times the abuser would use threats of harm to the pet to intimidate the abused person into staying in the abuseful situtation. Often the abuser had previously harmed or did harm the pet out of revenge and to attempt to continue their control over their victim. These shelters are in need our support as they are very important in breaking this cycle and offering the needed safety and security.
    Often people who have not experienced domestic abuse are frustrated when the victim returns to the abuseful situation. We had a saying in law enforcement that leaving a domestic abuse situation was a process, not an event. The reasons for staying or returning can be very complicated and require long term patience on the part of those offering assistance. Understanding this simple concept can help the supportive person/team to continue aiding the victim until she/he is strong enough to complete the process of moving on.
    It is also important to remember that the most dangerous time for the victim is when she/he is leaving or has left. The loss of control the abuser feels at this point can be so overwhelming to them that they act out in violence. The shelters are critical at this vulnerable time.
    Many victims do successfully leave and get the supportive care they need to begin a new and healthier lifestyle with new choices.

  2. peter

    October 3, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Geez – 40% of dogs are subjected to violence – I couldn’t believe that number when I read it.

    I’m an Australian, living in New York and really impressed that the PALS—People and Animals Living Safel has started a 6 month pilot…. hopefully a good outcome for some New York dogs


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