Safety for your Furry Friends after leaving your Abuser

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How to leave safely with your pet

By: Meghan Mausteller

Forty-four percent of American households have a dog and 35 percent have a cat, according to estimates by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). This amounts to about 78 million dogs and 85.5 million cats owned by families in the United States.

Unfortunately, due to the prevalence of domestic violence, pets are often in households that are abusive. This means that as vulnerable and well-loved members of the family, pets are often in the line of fire from an abuser, who can take out their aggression on them or use them in order to control, warn or hurt the victim.

While not all domestic violence services are pet friendly, there has recently been a large movement to ensure that leaving an abusive household means that everyone — including the furriest members — gets out safely.

If you or someone you know is a pet owner in an abusive situation, check out some of these available resources that can help make sure that every member of the family finds safety.


RedRover is an organization founded in 1987 that works to keep animals safe in dangerous situations, like natural disasters. They also have specific programs that make it easier for victims of domestic violence to leave their abusers without leaving their animals behind.

They offer financial assistance to victims through their RedRover Relief Program, which offers two different types of grants to victims of abuse.

The Domestic Violence Safe Escape grant is used to help temporarily board pets while the client is in a shelter. It can also cover other costs, like emergency veterinary care.

The RedRover Safe Housing grant works with domestic violence shelters to create a space that can house pets of victims on-site.

RedRover also has a connected website,Safe Places for Pets, that is designed specifically to create a search directory of all pet friendly domestic violence organizations in the United States that provide on-site and off-site housing for pets, as well as community programs that provide the same services.

Animal Welfare Institute

Similar to RedRover’s Safe Places for Pets, The Animal Welfare Institute has a Safe Havens Mapping Project for Pets of Domestic Violence Victims, which provides a list of all shelter services in the United States that are animal friendly, as well as centers that have connections to organizations that provide animal services or can provide referrals. This map allows people to search for these facilities by state or zip code in order to find the nearest one.

Legal protection

As of 2017, 32 states in the United States, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have enacted legislation that allows pets to be included in protection from abuse orders (PFAs). While the statutes vary by state and define both pets and abuse in a variety of ways, each of them does work to provide pets of abuse victims with a bit more protection and makes it easier for victims of abuse to remove their pet from the household.

The list of all states and U.S. territories that have passed such legislation can be found online on the Animal Legal & Historical Center website.

According to RedRover, 65 percent of victims of domestic violence stay in an abusive situation out of fear for leaving their pets. Furthermore, more than 50 percent of victims report leaving their pets behind, where they fear they may face torture or even death at the hands of their abuser. No family member deserves to be left behind to face the aftermath of leaving an abusive situation. These organizations, as well as many local services, are working to create a world where that no longer has to happen.


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