Pets provide companionship and unconditional love. Sadly, the most positive benefits of pet ownership can become the most harmful. Many people in an abusive relationships delay leaving their spouses or partners due to fear that they may hurt or injure their beloved animal companions.
This October, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month The Center for Women and Families (The Center) on 927 South Second Street, which provides trauma-informed advocacy and support for those affected by intimate partner violence and sexual assault, and The Kentucky Humane Society(KHS) on 241 Steedly Dr., are leading the effort to educate the Louisville community on the correlation between animal abuse and family violence.
According to data collected by the American Humane Association, 68 percent of women experiencing domestic violence also reported that their partner was violent towards their animal.
“Animal cruelty is one of the earliest and most dramatic indicators that an individual is developing a pattern of seeking power and control through abuse of others. When animals in a home are abused or neglected, it is a warning sign that others in the household may be in danger,” says Marta Miranda, President & CEO of The Center. “Often in domestic violence situations, the children and family members won’t leave a violent situation due to their love and concern over their pets.”
In 2001, The Center and KHS decided to changed that. They formed The Safe Haven Program to help care for the pets of domestic violence survivors. While women seek help and shelter from abusive living situations at The Center, KHS provides a safe, anonymous foster home for their beloved dogs and cats or arranges for a permanent home for a pet, if needed. While pets are in the care of the KHS, they receive medical attention and are spayed/neutered. This support is free of charge.
Since 2011, 48 animals and their families have been helped through Safe Haven; 48 percent of the time, the animals were successfully reunited with their owners once they were in stable, safe homes.
The remainder of the animals were placed for adoption, including Bear, a four-pound Pomeranian. Bear’s owner realized that she would be unable to take back the little dog, and so he was adopted by his foster caregiver, Angie Durgasingh, Customer Care Manager at KHS.
According to Durgasingh, when she first met Bear in June 2012 the dog was terrified and threatened to bite anyone who came near him. A breakthrough happened when Bear finally let Durgasingh’s 13-year-old son, Landon, touch him. Once Landon gained Bear’s trust, he soon started trusting other adults in the home. Now Bear sleeps in bed each night with the Durgasinghs and their other dogs.
More Pets, More Room
After noting the success of the Safe Haven program, The Center decided a pet space was needed at the Center. During a renovation last year an opportunity presented itself to add a pet space. The Center didn’t want to stop there.
“Our initial pet space was really small,” says Jeanine Triplett, Vice President for Development and Communication, Center for Women and Families.
The Center needed more room. A $100,000 gift from the Sam Swope Family Foundation for an addition made that possible.
“We are pleased to support the pet holding area to provide additional resources to encourage people to leave an unhealthy living environment, and take their beloved pet with them,” says Patti Swope, of the Swope Family Foundation.
The new expanded pet space has room for four dogs and cats. “Our goal is to make people aware that we do accept pets,” Triplett says. “Often you’ll hear police say that children won’t leave a situation because they don’t want to leave a pet behind. We’re here to tell you that we will take care of them.”
How You Can Help
Interested in volunteering to be a Safe Haven foster caregiver? Animals stay in your home for up to 90 days, giving their families time to get the support they need from The Center and get back on their feet.