Safe Havens Help People and Pets Escape Abuse

At times it may seem difficult to locate the “win/win” in a situation. Not so when it comes to recognizing the link between animal abuse and domestic violence—and using it to combat both. Animal protection and domestic violence agencies multiply their effectiveness by partnering on the important issue of animal abuse and its close association with domestic violence and other forms of interpersonal violence.

Over the past twenty years, a growing body of research has firmly established a significant link between domestic violence, child abuse, and animal abuse. In multiple studies, roughly half to three-quarters of battered women report that their pets had been threatened, harmed, and/or killed by their partners. Pet abuse was identified as one of the four significant predictors for intimate partner violence in a “gold standard” study by nationally recognized domestic violence researchers at The Johns Hopkins University. (Walton-Moss, Manganello, Frye and Campbell, 2005). Children exposed to domestic violence are at greater risk of psychological maladjustment, including a higher risk of becoming perpetrators or victims. Pet abuse is an early indicator of such maladjustment.

Research has uncovered another important association between domestic violence and animal abuse: From one-fifth to one-half of battered women delay leaving a dangerous situation out of concern for their pets’ safety.

In response to this need for domestic violence victims to find safety for their pets as well as themselves, many “Safe Haven for Pets” programs have emerged throughout the US Safe Havens for Pets are secure places in which victims can shelter their pets while they and their children seek safety. The structure varies between communities: Some employ a network of foster cares; others use available kennel space of the local humane society. Some are independent nonprofit organizations, while others are formal partnerships between domestic violence agencies and animal agencies or groups. In all cases, confidentiality of the pet’s location is highly guarded in order to protect the pets and their family members.

For victims of domestic violence and their representatives, rapid and easy access to information about Safe Haven programs is a crucial element in establishing safety for both animals and humans at risk. Yet, no directory exists of the Safe Havens programs in the US.

AWI aims to change that. For the last year, AWI has led the “Safe Havens Mapping Project.” The end goal is to identify every Safe Haven for Pets program in the US, to obtain up-to-date contact information, and to make this information searchable by zip code to a wide variety of organizations—local, state, and national domestic violence organizations, humane societies, law enforcement, victims of domestic violence, or anybody who wants to help victims of domestic violence find shelter for their pets.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Safe Havens Mapping Project, contact Mary Lou Randour or Nancy Blaney at AWI.