When women leave abusive relationships, they run for safety with a few bags. Many women mourn their dogs or cats left behind with the abuser, so the Arizona Humane Society’s (AHS) Project Safehouse stepped in to provide a safe place for their pets.
Mary was in a domestic violence situation for eight years. Her husband controlled her financially and would not allow her to buy food for her dogs. He gave her $30 per week to buy food and would beat her if she couldn’t buy enough food for the week. Mary decided to take her two dogs and escape the abuse.
At first, Mary was able to get an apartment. After cut backs at work, she ended up living in her car with her dogs for more than a month.
“Sometimes people would ask why didn’t she give up her pets or just leave them behind? For domestic violence victims, their pets are their family. They know if they leave the pets behind they will be abused or worse,” said Peggy Dudinyak, program manager of My Sisters’ Place, a Catholic Charities domestic abuse shelter. “In this case, we were able to find a safe place for her two dogs with Project Safe House until she could get back on her feet with a job and a place of her own.”
Many women fleeing abuse turn to domestic violence shelters for safety, but most shelters do not allow pets. “A lot of women stay in their situation, because they don’t know what to do with their pets,” said Dawn Curtis, a case worker at My Sisters’ Place. “This program removes the barrier to leaving unsafe situations.”
This free program is available to any woman who enters a domestic violence shelter. Their pets are lovingly cared for by AHS Foster Hero homes. Women receive regular updates about their pets until they are reunited.
AHS even goes another step further than just providing a safe place for pets. “If the pet is in need of comprehensive medical care during the 30 day program, our medical team and Second Change Animal Hospital ™ are available to assist the pet and their owner,” said Bretta Nelson of AHS. The program typically lasts 30 days but each case is handled individually with AHS making accommodations as needed.
Dudinyak has worked with AHS multiple times. “They are very easy to work with," says Dudinyak. "The women who come to us have given up so much. Project Safehouse lets them keep their pets, and this means so much to them.”
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