In 2011, AWI’s Safe Havens Mapping Project developed an integrated, comprehensive state-by-state listing of sheltering services for the animals of those experiencing domestic violence. Today, there are approximately 1,200 Safe Havens for Pets listings in the directory, accessible via the program’s website and the “Create a Safety Plan” section of the National Domestic Violence Hotline website. Entries in the directory go through a rigorous reverification process to ensure the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date.
AWI has been heartened by the positive feedback we have received from users of the Safe Havens for Pets website, as well as from local and state domestic violence organizations. To build greater awareness of the Safe Havens directory, AWI recently launched Safe Havens for Pets accounts on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Through social media, we hope to raise the profile of available safe haven programs, encourage communities to establish new programs, and strengthen collaborations among entities that seek to prevent domestic violence and animal abuse.
This work and subject matter can be emotionally heavy, so we want to express our gratitude toward those advocating for survivors and their pets and ensure they get the recognition they deserve. One of our most popular social media projects thus far has been to spotlight existing safe haven programs. We highlight the creative ways in which these programs have established themselves and call attention to what they offer. For example:
- SafeNest in Nevada allows residents to exercise and play with their pets in a safe, confidential location within shaded and fenced play areas.
- Colorado’s PeaceWorks Inc. offers shelter for all animals of domestic violence survivors—exotic animals and livestock included. They also collaborate with local agencies to provide a wide array of pet mental wellness programs, including pet reiki!
- Safe Futures—Connecticut’s first emergency shelter to provide safe housing for pets—shared information with us about their multiple offerings to fit the needs of each domestic violence survivor. Safe Futures’ “Protect Our Pets” program includes on-site emergency sheltering services, transitional housing services, and sheltering through veterinary facilities.
Our vision is that Safe Havens for Pets will serve as a central digital hub where coalition members interact and exchange ideas, where individual safe havens share news and updates about their work, and where those seeking to establish shelters and other services for domestic violence survivors gain access to vital resources and support. We hope also to provide a platform for organizations and safe havens to share information on upcoming webinars, trainings, and available grants. We are currently soliciting feedback from individual safe havens to learn what other resources and services would be most useful.
The link between animal cruelty and domestic violence is abundantly clear, and all around the country there are remarkable individuals working tirelessly to help survivors, raise awareness, and prevent future violence. We feel incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to know and learn from these individuals and groups, and we are just scratching the surface of what AWI and Safe Havens for Pets can do to help them protect even more people and their pets.