New AWI Grant Program Assists Domestic Violence Survivors and Their Pets in Communities of Greatest Need

A woman and her dog
Photo by HeARTs Speak

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is proud to announce the first two recipients of Safe Havens for Pets grants to help domestic violence survivors and their companion animals seek safety in underserved communities in Mississippi and North Dakota.

Under the pilot program, grants will be awarded to Fargo’s Rape Abuse and Crisis Center (RACC), and to the Tupelo Lee Humane Society, in partnership with SAFE, Inc., to coordinate temporary shelter for the pets of domestic violence survivors, provide veterinary care, assist with pet-related safety planning, and more.

Last year, the organizations had the opportunity to apply for AWI grants up to $20,000 each through a competitive process. AWI conducted a rigorous analysis of national data and identified their communities as “safe haven deserts”— areas with the greatest unmet need for services to accommodate pets of domestic violence survivors.

Domestic violence and animal abuse frequently occur in the same home,” said Claire Coughlin, coordinator of AWI’s Animals & Interpersonal Violence Program. “Domestic violence survivors often delay leaving a dangerous environment because they fear for the safety of pets left behind. Providing these individuals with pet-friendly services and shelter is an essential step in addressing barriers to seeking safety. These grants will help recipients provide critical services to this population in communities that lack sufficient resources.”

AWI works to spread awareness about the link between animal cruelty and family violence, while providing resources for survivors, advocates, and other social services professionals. Since 2011, AWI has managed the Safe Havens for Pets Program (formerly the Safe Havens Mapping Project) — a one-of-a-kind, searchable database of sheltering services that can help individuals who are experiencing domestic violence seek safety for themselves and their companion animals.

Various surveys of domestic violence survivors over the years reveal that as many as 89% report that their pets were threatened, harmed, or killed. 

North Dakota, for instance, currently has four safe havens — roughly one per 492,000 residents. AWI’s analysis of the most recent statistics available revealed that, in 2019, the state led the nation in the number of calls per capita (266) to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and requests for shelter (44).

In Fargo, RACC will use its AWI grant to establish a volunteer foster program for pets of domestic violence survivors, assist with pet deposits and extra rental fees associated with safe housing for survivors and their pets, defray the cost of vaccines and other veterinary care, assist with pet-related safety planning, and conduct community outreach and education on the relationship between domestic violence and animal cruelty.

Integrating pet fostering, vet care, and boarding into our services ensures a more holistic approach to crisis intervention,” said Jody Hudson of RACC. “It acknowledges the interconnectedness of individuals and their pets, addressing both human and animal welfare in times of need.”

Across Mississippi, only nine safe havens exist — roughly one per 329,000 residents. In 2019, the state experienced an above-average number, per capita, of calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and requests for shelter. The AWI grant will be used to create and equip a pet-safe space at the SAFE Inc. shelter in Tupelo, transport companion animals to temporary shelter at the Tupelo Lee Humane Society, recruit potential foster families, coordinate visits between survivors and their pets, fund veterinary care, and cross-train staff at both organizations.

AWI hopes to offer similar funding opportunities in the future.

“This program allows us to offer immediate shelter, counseling, safety planning, and continued support to survivors and their pets, fostering a safe and supportive environment for healing,” said Rebekah Reed of SAFE, Inc.

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
[email protected], (202) 446-2128

The Animal Welfare Institute ( is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.