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SAFETY ALERT:

If you are in danger call 911.
Or reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline
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review these safety tips.

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Only 76 days before the start of DVAM 2019...

The Link between Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse

During Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), several domestic violence shelter programs across the country will be observing National SAF-T Day, held annually on the first Saturday in October. This national event originated in 2010 as an opportunity for shelters to host a local dog walk or other community event to raise funds to start or sustain an on-site pet housing program and awareness regarding the co-occurrence between animal abuse and domestic violence.

Why is such an initiative so important? Advocates have learned that abusive partners often use the bond between victims and their companion animals to control, manipulate, and isolate their victims. Research indicates that 20 to 65% of domestic violence victims delay leaving a dangerous situation because they don’t know where to place or how to protect their pets. Some survivors return because they fear for the animals’ safety (NRCDV, 2014).

Please read below for ways to increase your understanding of the connection between domestic violence and animal abuse and determine ways you can be involved in helping families with pets who are in dangerous situations.

Learn more about the issue: 

To assist domestic violence victim advocates and animal rights activists better understand the link between animal abuse and domestic violence, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence has released the Technical Assistance Guidance, Why Pets Mean So Much: The Human-Animal Bond in the Context of Intimate Partner Violence. Developed by the Animal Welfare Institute, this document explores ways that victim advocates can assist survivors of domestic violence and their pets when seeking safety and refuge from abuse.

Stay on message: 

With increased attention to the connections between animal abuse and domestic violence, advocates may be asked to participate in media interviews. To help advocates stay on message and provide compelling information, the Domestic Violence Awareness Project (DVAP) provides a talking points form, How and why are domestic violence and animal abuse related?, which includes concise and fully cited data.

Plan for pets' safety: 

It is essential to do safety planning for pets, just as it is for the rest of the family. This safety planning brochure lists some important arrangements that families can make for their pets before leaving an abusive situation. Additional recommendations for programs to use during hotline calls and shelter intake are available here.

Expand safety and support services to survivors and their pets: 

When a domestic violence shelter is unable to help a family with pets, they are missing an opportunity to help a large segment of their community and end the cycle of violence. Sheltering Animals & Families Together (SAF-T) is the first and only global initiative guiding domestic violence shelters on how to house families together with their pets. SAF-T enables more domestic violence victims to leave abusers without leaving their pets behind and at risk. The SAF-T Start-Up Manual and webinar provide helpful guidance and answer advocates questions about how to safely house pets on-site at a domestic violence shelter. With over 60 shelters participating, greater awareness and implementation of SAF-T is needed to help more families.

Consider hosting a National SAF-T Day event in your community next year:

National SAF-T Day provides a way for domestic violence shelters to raise funds and community support to start an onsite pet housing program. As the national host organization for this event, the SAF-T Program strongly encourages local programs to register their events through their website beginning in September each year. An instructional handout providing guidance and ideas to assist advocates in replicating a SAF-T Day event in their communities is available here.