Across the nation, there are many people living in situations of domestic violence. Many would leave, but there’s something holding them back: concern over what would happen to their pets.
Deniese Perez, the executive director of Colorado River Regional Crisis Services, said that they accept clients with pets in their shelter. She said fear for a pet’s safety should not be something that holds people back from seeking help. She also acknowledged pets are part of the healing process.
“We are a pet shelter,” she said.
They’re in a minority. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, only 12 percent of domestic violence programs can provide shelter to pets. About 24 percent of programs offer referrals to local animal welfare organizations.
Fear for one’s pets in domestic violence situations is real, and it’s confirmed by statistical evidence. According to the NCADV, 71 percent of pet owners entering domestic violence shelters reported their partners had threatened, injured or killed family pets. The NCADV said a study found that 87 percent of batterer-perpetrated acts of pet abuse are committed in the presence of their partners for revenge or control.
The NCADV said abusers demonstrate power and control by threatening, harming or killing animals. They will abuse their children’s pets to coerce them into sexual abuse or to force them to remain silent about abuse.
Abusers will harm pets to punish the victim for leaving, the NCADV said. They will also harm pets to retaliate for acts of independence on the part of the victims.
The NCADV went on to say that 55 percent of domestic violence victims and their children said their pets are an important source of emotional support. They estimated that 40 percent of domestic violence victims do not leave the situation out of fear of what would happen to their pets. Some victims have been known to live in their cars for months until an opening was available at a pet-friendly shelter.
It is being recognized nationwide how important pets are to domestic violence victims. They provide emotional support and are important to the healing process. In a November 2014 story on the Mashable website, Christine Erickson remarked that pets are often part of the family, and domestic violence victims should not have to worry about them.
“In some cases, just knowing the pet is being cared for is a crucial part of the healing process,” Erickson said. “It allows the victim to focus on herself.”
Erickson described the efforts of the Urban Research Institute and their People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) program, which creates shelters where families and their pets are welcome. The program began in New York and has spread to other areas of the country.
Rita Garza is URI's senior vice president of marketing, communications and development. In the Mashable story, she said, “We recognize the value of the pet as a true member of the family. In addition to everything else that a domestic violence victim is experiencing just coming into a shelter, to ask them not be able to have their pet is for us unacceptable.”
Perez said 25 percent of their clients bring pets with them. While the majority are dogs, they also bring cats, birds and fish. They house them in kennels in back of the shelter building. If there are animals they can’t house or take care of, they will temporarily be turned over to the La Paz County/Town of Parker Animal Shelter.
“We have a good relationship with the animal shelter,” she said.
Perez said they have received support in their efforts to house pets from many organizations, including Petsmart and a foundation called Red Rover. They provide funds to shelters that accommodate pets. Perez said they recently received a $6,500 grant from Red Rover for outside kennels.
Red Rover’s motto is “Bringing animals from crisis to care.” For more information, go to www.redrover.org.
Perez said they are accommodating to pets because they don’t want concern for pets to prevent a victim of domestic violence from seeking the help he or she might need.
The phone number for Colorado River Regional Crisis Services is 928-669-8620. Their office is located at 1301 Joshua Avenue in Parker.
The number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline if 1-800-799-7233.