Program looks to address victims who stay in abusive environments because fear of leaving pets behind
SAN DIEGO — A large percentage of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they are worried what may happen to their pets.
The Rancho Coastal Humane Society has a program to help these victims and their pets.
The Rancho Coastal Humane Society’s Animal Safehouse Program has provided a safe haven for domestic abuse victims’ pets since 1997.
Program leaders want you to know it’s a resource because victims often wait longer to escape their abuser, or don’t leave at all, in fear of making their pets the next target of abuse.
“Women will delay leaving for up to two years due to not having a place for their pets. A lot of times abusers will use pets as leverage against their victims to make them stay or threaten harm and violence to them,” said Justina Kirkland, Animal Safehouse Program Director.
Over 10 million people deal with some sort of physical abuse in the United States every year. Women between the ages of 18-to-24 are most likely to face abuse as domestic shelter hotlines receive an average of 20,000 thousand calls per day.
RCHS has partnered with five domestic violence shelters in San Diego. Victims staying at shelters must work with their case managers. The pets are then taken care of by volunteers away from the shelter, to their own safehouses, so the abuser cannot come to the kennel and track them down.
If a victim is not at a domestic violence shelter yet, they can call the humane society’s hotline number at 760-753-6476 for help.
“Typically pets that experience domestic violence are neglected. We offer spay and neuter, vaccinations, micro-chipping and we take care of all the medical conditions, X-rays, and surgeries,” said Kirkland
And they offer all of this for free. They will take care of the pet for up to 90 days.
Once victims are finally reunited with their pets, “it’s always tears of joy. Its been so long and they feel these pets are their family members and interlocked with their healing and hard times,” said Kirkland.
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