Safe Havens for Pets of Domestic Violence Victims
What are safe havens?
They are places where the victims of domestic violence may shelter their pets while they and their children seek safety. The ways in which safe havens for pets programs operate vary from community to community. Some are networks of foster care homes; others involve using additional kennel space of the local humane society. Others are independent nonprofit organizations, while many are formal partnerships between domestic violence agencies and animal agencies or groups.
Depending on the local arrangement, family members may be able to visit their pets while they are in safe-keeping. How long a pet may stay in a safe haven again will depend on the local arrangement - some stays are much shorter than others. Confidentiality of the pet’s location is highly guarded in order to protect the pets and their family members.
Where are they?
Until now, there were only partial listings of safe havens for pets programs. AWI's ongoing Safe Havens Mapping Project addresses this gap with the development of an integrated, comprehensive state-by-state listing of domestic violence shelters and programs that provide services for clients with companion animals.
In addition to this directory, Ahimsa House in Georgia operates a listserv of safe havens programs. Program staff find the listserv useful as a way to share information, identify resources, and learn from others' experiences with similar problems.
How could our community start one?
The manner in which safe havens for pets programs develop depends upon the capacity and best thinking of the local community. For a comprehensive review of how to start a safe haven for pets program, please see:
Considerations for victims of domestic violence and those who help them:
Yes. Twenty-one states have passed laws to ensure that victims of domestic violence can include their pets in restraining orders.
Even if your state does not have a specific provision, most state TROs contain language that gives a court discretion to permit additional orders. For example, a court can order pets be included in a TRO as they do for the temporary care of children or possession of property. Conditions bonds also can include pets. And a TRO can authorize law enforcement to assist with the removal of a pet from home.