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Escaping Your Abuser with Your Pets

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When planning to escape an abuser, there are many things to consider. Where will I live? What will I eat? Will I be able to find a job? What will happen to my kids?

Contacting your local domestic violence center to create a safety plan is the best thing you can do when making these decisions. Tweet This

But what about your pets?

“Up to 65 percent of domestic violence victims are unable to escape their abusers because they are concerned about what will happen to their pets when they leave.”Carlisle-Frank, Frank and Nielsen, 2004

“Frequently emotional [abuse] survivors are so battered down and feel so badly about themselves that pets are the bedrock in their lives.  Literally if you take away that [pet] you take away everything from them.” Liz Grieb, Safe Embrace, Nevada

Lets say you safely get away from your abuser. You have (at least temporarily) a safe place to live, and some source of income and/or food for your kids. Then, your abuser contacts you and slyly says, “I would hate to see anything bad happen to Sandy (your dog). You should think about that.” He* hasn’t actually said he plans to harm your dog, but you know him well enough to realize his implication. What now? Many victims will then return to their abusers, rather than take the chance he will hurt or kill their beloved pet – and who could blame them?

Domestic violence shelters are becoming more aware that the safety of a victim’s pets can be a huge concern. DomesticShelters.org allows visitors to search for nearby shelters that accept pets. From their site, click on “Filter your search.” This will bring you to another page where you can ask specifically for shelters near you that accept pets.

Sadly, in many areas, there are very few, or even no shelters that accept pets. If you find yourself in this situation, another option might be to leave your pets with a friend or family member temporarily, if you can do it without your abuser knowing. Another option is to find a temporary foster care placement for your pet until you can be reunited.

One organization that facilitates this is called PetsEmpower.org. They work to find foster care placements for the pets of DV victims in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Their vision is to create:

A world where one million American domestic violence survivors preserve healing pet relationships on their journey to freedom.  Loving pets cease to serve as barrier to entry to domestic violence shelters.  Survivors escape domestic violence quickly and develop lives of dignity and choice.

  • Safe Havens for Animals is part of the Humane Society of the United States. They partner with pet organizations in 45 of the 50 US states. 
  • Safe Place for Pets  is another organization that lists shelters that accept pets and/or finds temporary foster homes for them in the United States.

What if you live outside the United States? 

I found two organizations that serve domestic violence victims and their pets in the United Kingdom:

Freedom Project and The RSPCA

If you live in another part of the world, do an internet search for shelters that accept pets of domestic violence victims or foster care organizations that accept pets of domestic violence victims in your area.

God cares about you, your children and your pets. Psalm 46:1-3 says:

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

Question: If you are thinking of leaving your abuser, have you considered what to do with your pets?

Many blessings my friends!

Caroline

 

*Abusers can be male or female, and so can their victims.

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