Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Blog the Change: Pets are Domestic Abuse Victims, Too

We believe in the power of change, which is why we enthusiastically support Blog the Change. 
And we pray that today's post gets the word out so that there is, indeed, change on this issue, worldwide.


Early in 2012, a local story made national news: it was about a Great Dane named J Matthew. When J Matthew saw his mom beaten with a hammer, he thrust himself between her and the abusive man.

As a result, they were both nearly killed. J Matthew’s human is certain that without his brave intervention, she would have surely died.

J Matthew’s owner beat the odds – she left the abusive relationship. One of the reasons she was able to do so was due to a new policy at the Rose Brooks Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

The shelter allowed her to keep J Matthew with her, once he was released from veterinary care. Rose Brooks is the only shelter in the Midwest region that will allow victims to bring pets with them.

Many battered women refuse to leave abusive situations because domestic violence shelters will not make room for their beloved pets.

In fact, according to nationally renowned animal and family advocate attorney Allie Phillips, almost half of domestic violence victims delayed or refused to leave the abusive situation out of fear they would have to leave their animals behind. This makes perfect sense when one considers that a pet is a source of comfort and unconditional love during a time of great distress.

As we well know, our pets are family members. To leave without them under any circumstances is unthinkable. In this, a situation where a pet may be a touch-point of sanity in a world gone crazy-wrong? You can see why a victim might even choose homelessness over seeking assistance if that shelter won’t take their beloved friend in, too.

The Animal Welfare Institute hosts a list, searchable by zip code, of shelters in the U.S. that are considered Safe Havens.

A Safe Haven, by their definition, is “a domestic violence shelter that either provides sheltering services for the animals of domestic violence victims, has a relationship with an entity that does, or provides referrals to such facilities.”

Sadly, most of these do not have on-site facilities to care for a victim’s pets.

When they do, it’s big news. Just a few months ago the Urban Resource Institute launched New York City’s first ever co-sheltering program to enable domestic violence survivors and their pets to reside together in shelter. The project is currently in a six-month test.

 If your area does not have a system in place, there is a resource available to help. And this is the focus of today’s Blog the Change:

Allie Phillips has created the first and only global initiative that provides resources to shelters to help them get to the place where they, too, can offer what Rose Brooks and the Urban Resource Institute now provide: housing for families and their pets.

The program is called SAF-T, Sheltering Animals and Families Together, and they offer a free start-up manual for any organization interested in providing this service to families fleeing abuse.

Please join us in spreading the word. We hope in the near future to be able to report that many other places have followed the ground-breaking work of these fine people and organizations.

Kudos to Allie Phillips, and to Rose Brooks (and Wayside Waifs, the no-kill shelter that worked with Rose Brooks for over a year to help make their pets program a reality). And we’re crossing our paws that the six-month trial in NYC becomes permanent.

Allie Phillips
Washington Times
Ohio Domestic Violence Network
Animal Abuse/Domestic Violence Fact Sheet
Urban Resource Institute
The Rose Brooks Center

Great Dane photo courtesy Marcia O’Connor via Creative Commons 3.0 license


  1. Really interesting post. The world definitely needs more places like that. Thank you for posting.

  2. We do understand that this is a BIG issue and thank you for the information and bring light to it.

  3. we are so proud of people who can get out of these situations....but wish there were more places that would help them with pets so they don't have to fear for them as well.

  4. What a great post, thank you for sharing! I am so happy to hear that some of these shelters are starting to allow dogs to come with their humans. Anything to make it easier for them to leave these terrible situations! I cannot imagine leaving my dog behind in any kind of dangerous situation but I'm happy now that both human & dog have a chance at a better opportunity!

  5. Bravo and let us hope more shelters allow family pets to stay too. Must be heart breaking to have to leave them behind. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  6. Our local shelter has been doing this for years. I was finally able to help out this past year as I was kitten free. It was nice to do it.

  7. I just wish these people ( men get battered as well ) could have the strength or somewhere to go so they could leave.Too much of it goes on. Like Molly said lets hope more shelters will take the family pets . Great post xxooxxx

    Mollie and Alfie

  8. this was a superb post, thanks so much for sharing

  9. This is SUCH an important issue - and cats are especially at risk because a man that will abuse a woman will often do the same, or worse, to a kitty.

  10. It's a good start! Hopefully more shelters will start allowing pets too.

  11. Sparkle, we couldn't agree more! Did you hear of Facebook's Let's Adopt Global's most recent case?

    An abusive man slammed a Siamese cat repeatedly against a wall. Thankfully she received emergency treatment and will recover. The man also had two daughters in the home. He did it in front of them.

    Kudos to the courageous people who can walk away, and we applaud every shelter who understands the incredibly close relationship between a person and their pet. Providing for BOTH is a MUST!!

  12. This is such a huge issue, and we are glad to read that Allie Phillips, the Rose Brooks Center and Wayside Waifs are addressing it head on. We hope, purr and pray that this program spreads like wildfire because, sadly, it is SO needed.

  13. This is a great post. Our local human shelter also shelters the pets of people fleeing abuse. I think it is so great to be able to help all the members of a family flee danger. Purrs!

  14. Thanks for talking about this very important issue. One of our local domestic violence victims shelters opened facilites for keeping both dogs and cats, and we hope that more continue to add this vital service.

  15. What a great post.
    So often when bad things happen to people, the animals tend to be forgotten.How wonderful that a shelter will accommodate the beloved pets too. We hope this trend will continue in other shelters.
    Purrs Tillie and Georgia,
    Treasure,Tiger, JJ and Julie

  16. This is a movement near and dear to me and my Mom Linda's hearts. Mom Linda was in a battered relationship for 8 years...and she has served as a Board of DIrectors member for Stand Against Domestic Violence, our County non profit battered women's shelter. She knows that being able to keep a beloved pet just as keeping one's children, helps women leave these life threatening relationships. We will learn more about this and be ready for next B4TC...we have missed the last two but won't do so again. We totally believe in this movement. paw pats of appreciation, Savannah and Mom Linda

  17. Those are 2 wunnerful shelters to remove an obstacle to Moms leavin a bad situation...

  18. Such an important post for sure. Thankfully, these changes are starting to happen for the precious, beloved family pets.

  19. i found allie phillips awhile back. it really touched home as i was in this situation. my x always threatened our dog. i am so glad for these shelters!


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