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Leaving Your Pets Behind Is No Option

So many victims in Canada have to leave their pets behind. Not many shelters accept pets. There are some things you can do to prepare someone or yourself when leaving a relationship. You definitely do not want the animals to stay with the abuser. So sometimes your only option is to surrender them. Can imagine how that would make you feel. Our pets are family and there is nothing like the guilt you carry when having to make a decision like this. What if I told you that you may not have to.

The Stats And Why This Is Important

Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative said this week after their latest study revealed there’s been no change to domestic homicide rates in the last nine years.  Women made up three-quarters of domestic homicides during that time period, with 52 percent of women belonging to at least one vulnerable group the researchers identified — those with an Indigenous background, new immigrants or refugees, northern or rural residents, and children.

Expand the scope from domestic homicides to all femicides and the picture is equally stark: one woman is killed on average every 2.5 days. That’s a statistic that hasn’t changed in four decades.

What about all the innocent pets as well. What happens to them. The family is already going through its fight for life. Then they have to deal with making safe choices for their pets. A lot of victims do not leave because of their pets. If there were more options out there. I think more people would leave. Leaving them behind is never an option for most victims. Approximately 89 percent of women stay or return to an abusive home if there is a pet they don’t want to leave behind.

Dogs Suffer From PTSD Too

It’s not easy for animals either. Nor is it fair to them that they need to pay for the abuser’s mistakes. They are separated from the ones they trust and love. Dogs do suffer from PTSD as much as we do. Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, the director of the animal behavior clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, says that PTSD in dogs can be managed but never fully cured because “dogs never forget”.

So what do you do if you’re trying to leave a domestic violence situation? Here are some solutions that may help if you’re in Canada.

Contact OVMA -When You Have No Other Support

  • The OVMA Ontario Veterinary Medical Association has developed a SafePet Program wherein participating veterinary clinics make space available to house animals of women seeking refuge in a women’s shelter. Contact info@ovma.org for information. You can download the pdf brochure below.

In Guelph Ontario, they have a program called Pets in Transition that can assist you if you can’t find anywhere for you and your pet. The program helps women and their pets flee domestic violence, together. Now, this program is growing to support the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington clients.

How To Help And Start Your Own Safe Haven

If You Have Support And A Plan To Leave Safely

  • Make sure you have a safe place for yourself and your pet. Your first right choice was to leave. No matter how hard it gets DO NOT GIVE UP your pet needs you to be strong for them as well.
  • Children can be subject to grieving when they are forced to give up their pets. Children will need to be reassured that it is only temporary. They will see the pet again once you get situated. Have a Friend or Family take the pet for you if possible.
  • Abusers can sometimes use children and pets as leverage. It’s important to have a safe plan put together.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to others if you need help. Sometimes in order to stay safe, you may need to reach out to others and separate your pet and family. Not an easy choice but sometimes you have to make that choice.

Other Resources To Help

Department of Justice also has a tremendous amount of resources and information. To look for shelters in Ontario there is a site called Shelter Safe. You can reach out and find out which ones can help you. This can be used anywhere across Canada as well.

Pets in Shelter provides an opportunity to take their pet with them to the shelter. A typical stay at the emergency shelter is for six weeks until they can find adequate housing, but the shelter has had women stay closer to five months if they need to.

The Ending Violence Association of Canada can provide some help to Canada Wide. Purple Leash Project too may be able to help.

Safe Place for Pets also provides on-site housing in situations of domestic violence and other valuable resources.

Recently the KW Humane Society received a Grant to help Pet Owners in transition. You can read the story here.