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Tackling the Pet Piece of the Domestic Violence Problem
Central Florida shelter breaks ground for unprecedented kennel
When completed, Paws for Peace Kennel will provide a refuge for animal victims of domestic violence.

If you think providing housing for companion animals at domestic violence shelters is a costly indulgence rather than an essential component in prevention, consider these sobering statistics (from Harbor House, a comprehensive domestic violence prevention program in Central Florida):

  • 48 percent of domestic violence survivors delay leaving an abusive home because they have no safe place for their pets;
  • 88 percent of pets living in homes with domestic abuse are either injured or killed;
  • Of all survivors who enter shelters to escape domestic violence, 57 percent have had a pet killed by their abuser.

It’s clear that providing a safe haven for pets can be an essential part of getting the human victims of domestic violence into their own safe haven.

Recognizing this reality over the past couple years, nearly a dozen shelters around the country have built kennels, some as part of an American Humane Association initiative.

In early November, Harbor House broke ground for the Paws for Peace Kennel, which, when complete next summer, will be the largest kennel built on site at a domestic violence shelter.

It’s a little surprising that kennels at shelters aren’t more common—the statistics being what they are. I have to chalk it up to the big divide that still exists between what we consider human concerns and what we consider animal concerns. Even after so many years twining our lives, most agencies and institutions keep dogs and people in distinct categories. But I hope the more we see dogs in oncology wards, nursing homes, prisons (trained by inmates), etc., the more we will seek holistic solutions whenever possible.

Learn more (watch the short video) about Paws for Peace Kennel.

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com
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Submitted by Carolyn | November 28 2011 |

You'd think with the demonstrated value of therapy dogs and the well known fact that pets offer comfort to owners, that the addition of kennels to domestic abuse shelters would be pretty much a given. I can only imagine, if fleeing violence, that I would derive so much comfort and relief from having my pet safe too.

Submitted by Elizabeth Kennedy | November 28 2011 |

Just learned this from a friend on Facebook: The Marin Humane Society will take in the pets of women leaving their home because of domestic violence for up to two weeks. It's a highly confidential service.

Are there other shelters that provide similar services?

Submitted by Anonymous | January 9 2012 |

I left my abusive husband after 7 years with this threat hanging over my head, "If you EVER walk out that door, you will have to step over the bodies of all your dead birds to get back in." I heard it many times, in many situations, and it worked for a long time. The few minutes I spent each day, filling feed cups and cleaning trays was my oasis--away from him, and he knew it. My cockatiels would have been helpless in his massive hands. I could picture the massacre all too well.

In a twist of fate, he did not kill my birds but attempted to kill himself when I finally left. Since he was in observation at the hospital, I was able to rescue them.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 5 2013 |

I am in the same boat. I would have left years ago--but I will NOT leave my cats. If anyone thinks they haven't suffered--they are sadly mistaken. Husband recently in jail--me AND cats relaxed & peaceful. For the poor cats--the first time in their little lives. WE NEED A WAY OUT. I will not leave them. "He" would say he's good to them. He also truly believes he's "good" to me as well. A sad mess indeed. I want out--I want to live. Been through too much--could help so many, in so many categories--including women just like me. I don't know how to save myself AND my cats. I do know that if I leave without them--I'd then be accused of "leaving them". These types of "men"--you have to leave WITH the pets, or stay in a God-awful nightmare. To the rest in my shoes--I feel for you. Many are suffering in silence--including the helpless furry ones.

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