ASHLAND Women who find themselves in abusive homes often won’t leave because they won’t leave pets behind.
One local domestic violence shelter is trying to remove that deterrent.
Safe Harbor has received a $20,000 grant from PetSmart Charities to support the Survivor Pet Program, which ensures onsite sheltering for pets of clients in domestic violence situations. The goal is to serve 25 pets for 25 clients annually.
“This program is important to Safe Harbor and survivors because 55% of domestic violence victims report that their pets are very important sources of emotional support and sometimes that decision of leaving their perpetrator is harder if they know they have to leave their pet behind,” said Tiffanie Buckner, volunteer/outreach coordinator at Safe Harbor. “Perpetrators often intentionally target pets to exert control over their partners — Safe Harbor wants to preserve and keep families safe, including their pets.”
Buckner said when a victim calls the shelter, they are asked about pets so the shelter can make accommodations.
There is a building separate, but near, the shelter that is used as a kennel, she said.
"They can check on them as many times as they want throughout the day," Buckner said. "They have to take care of them, feed them, bathe them. There is a fenced-in area to let them out to run and play."
She said there also are advocates at the kennel to make sure pet owners are taking good care of the animals; those in the shelter are required to check on the pet three times a day.
The shelter has give dog kennels and room for four to six cats; there is room for the kennel to expand if needed.
“Pets have the remarkable ability to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and bring us unconditional love, but they can also add an extra layer of complexity and concern when living in an unsafe environment,” said Kelly Balthazor, regional relationship manager at PetSmart Charities. “Far too often, pet parents have to choose between a beloved pet and their own safety. Thanks to the work of Safe Harbor, Ashland domestic violence survivors can receive the support and resources needed so they never have to make that decision.”
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