AWI Helps Domestic Violence Victims Get Pets to Safety

Monday, October 3, 2011

Washington, D.C. -- In special recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Animal Welfare Institute announces the launch of the National Safe Havens for Pets Mapping Project, an online listing by state of safe havens for pets programs, available on the Animals & Family Violence section of the AWI website.

Domestic violence affects everyone, including the family pet. Because of the strong attachments they have with their pets, victims of domestic violence may delay leaving a dangerous situation because of fear for the pet’s safety. Abusers are well aware of these attachments and will use violence or the threat of violence against companion animals to control, intimidate, and seek retribution against their spouses/partners, children, or even elderly parents. Victims and their families need help; so do their companion animals. In response to this need, groups in local communities have created safe havens for pets throughout the U.S. - places where the victims of domestic violence may shelter their pets while they and their children seek safety.

Through the National Safe Havens for Pets Mapping Project, a national listing of known safe havens for pets programs will be available online to domestic violence agencies, law enforcement, humane societies, domestic violence victims, and all those individuals and groups who provide services to families in crisis.

Currently, the National Safe Havens for Pets Mapping Project lists over 1,000 safe havens for pets programs. By the end of the year, this database will cover all states and will be searchable by zip code.

"AWI wants to provide practical tools and information to protect animals and their families," stated AWI President Cathy Liss. "We are pleased to have initiated this national online listing, which will be an important resource for the many dedicated people who come in contact with victims of domestic violence and their companion animals."

David LaBahn, president and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys welcomes the new resource. "When there is violence in the home, everyone suffers," observed LaBahn. "As prosecutors, we know that abusers take out their rage on the family pets as a way to exert more power and control over children, spouses, even their elderly parents. AWI is providing a great service by developing a national listing of safe havens for pets available in one place for victims of family violence as well as for prosecutors, law enforcement, and service providers. We appreciate their ongoing leadership in this area."

In addition to the National Safe Havens for Pets Mapping Project, the Animals & Family Violence section of the AWI website provides other tools related to pet abuse and family violence, including: Safety Planning for Pets; Asking Questions about Pets at Intake; Children of Domestic Violence Victims; and "Guidelines for Human Service Personnel: Pets, Domestic Violence, and Children," as well as information about states that allow inclusion of companion animals in Temporary Restraining Orders, a model Temporary Restraining Order, and model legislation for Temporary Restraining Orders. AWI also provides a link to a listserv of directors of safe havens for pets programs, organized and maintained by Ahimsa House in Georgia.

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Media Contacts:
Mary Lou Randour, Ph.D., AWI, (202) 446-2127
Nancy Blaney, AWI, (202) 446-2141