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Safe Havens for Dogs and Cats
New shelter helps furry victims of domestic violence.
This simple kennel will be a safe haven for canine victims of domestic violence in Northern Virginia.

The statistics are daunting. In their lifetimes, approximately one in three women will be victims of domestic violence. And in those afflicted households with companion animals, pets often share in the violence and abuse. In fact, in a study of intentional animal abuse cases, 13 percent involved incidents of domestic violence.

Up to 85 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that a partner had threatened, injured or killed the family pet, according to a national study done in 1997.  And here’s the thing: A lot of women don’t get to the door of a shelter precisely because they worry about the fate of a beloved animal. Faced with no place to house a pet safely, some victims chose to stay in the bad situation—subjecting themselves, sometimes their children, and their animals to further violence.

In early 2008, the American Humane Society launched a national initiative to promote the on-site housing of pets at shelters. Simple and brilliant: Not only does this provide a safe haven for the animal but helps keep a comforting friend nearby in a crisis.

The recent opening of Doorways for Women and Families’ safe shelter for pets marks the ninth such refuge for pets in the country and the first in Northern Virginia. Doorways is Arlington’s leading provider and advocate for victims of homelessness, violence and abuse. I can only hope the recognition of the human–companion animal bond, as well as the practical, holistic problem-solving of this idea continues to spread.

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com
CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Anonymous | June 7 2009 |

I know it sounds hard to believe. But I stayed in a bad situation because I didn't have anyone to take my cats. Luckily, they didn't suffer any abuse. But I did. This is a great idea. I only wish it had come along sooner.

Submitted by Kathy Konetzka-Close | June 15 2009 |

This is such a good idea; the problems of domestic violence are many and multi-facted, but knowing that there's a safe place where you can keep your animals while you're trying to get yourself and other family members out of danger seems like such a no brainer. I hope many other shelters are able to sign on and the idea really takes hold across the country. Anything that removes a little stress from an incredibly scary and stressful situation is immensely helpful. Bravo to all the animal safe houses out there!

Submitted by Darlene | June 15 2009 |

I too live in a very bad relationship the only reason i stay is because i have nowhere to go with my pets. They are everything to me. Hopefully one day we will be lucky enough to escape. This is so wonderful this housing for pets. This will be a lifesaver for many women,children and pets. Thank-you so much.

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