Leaving an abusive relationship is not an easy thing to do. For the victims of domestic violence who own animals, the decision to leave can be exceptionally difficulty. Partnerships between animal welfare organizations and human service agencies can help improve the safety of persons fleeing interpersonal violence and abuse, and their animals.
In 2016, the Saskatchewan SPCA, Saskatchewan Towards Offering Partnership Solutions (STOPS) to Violence and the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services (PATHS) of Saskatchewan released a report outlining ways to improve animal safekeeping resources in Saskatchewan. Among these recommendations:
- Develop education and training materials for staffs of human service and animal welfare organizations to raise awareness of the link between all forms of violence;
- Create a database of animal safekeeping resources to assist victims of interpersonal violence and abuse;
- Grow the number of organizations providing animal safekeeping services in the province; and
- Explore new options for emergency and longer-term animal safekeeping services and supports.
How animal safekeeeping programs help protect animals and people
Animals are also exposed to and affected by violence in the home. Not only can animals be abused, they can be used as tool for the abuser to control and punish the victim. Pets are seen as part of the family, making it hard for many victims of abuse to leave the home knowing their pet is left behind.
If someone punches, kicks, throws, or hurts an animal in any way, that person has demonstrated the capacity for violence. You cannot assume that the violence will stop there. If the person has harmed or seriously threatened your animal, you and your children may also be in danger.
What effect does animal abuse have on children?
Some victims of domestic violence have reported that their children have become more aggressive after witnessing animal cruelty in the home. Children sometimes behave more cruelly to animals, and often become more hurtful to others (for example, bullying) or withdrawn and emotional. It’s important when talking to a counsellor that you mention any animal abuse that has occurred.
What steps can I take to protect my animals?
- Try to remove the animals from the situation as soon as possible.
- Gather supplies that might be useful if you have to leave quickly with your pet: a carrier, a collar and leash, medications.
- Ask friends or trusted family members to care for your pet/pets temporarily.
- Contact a kennel to make arrangements to have your pet boarded. Kennels will require proof of vaccinations so remember to bring a recent veterinary invoice with you. (Your veterinarian may be able to supply a full vaccination record directly to the boarding kennel, upon request.)
- If you are applying for an Emergency Protective Order, protect your animals by including them in it.
- Some animal shelters may be able to provide temporary pet care or help arrange for foster care. Talk with your nearest SPCA or Humane Society to see if they can assist.
If you live in Regina …
The Regina Humane Society Safe Places Program accepts family pets when a victim of domestic violence is leaving, or has already left the home to enter a shelter environment. Pets are picked up directly from the safe house and taken directly to an approved foster family for care. If a pickup is needed outside of the Society’s normal operating hours, contact Regina City Police at 306.777.6500. For further information on the Safe Places Program, please contact 306.543.6363 Ext. 244.
If you live in Saskatoon …
The Saskatoon SPCA Pet Safekeeping Program assists the victims of domestic violence with the short-term care of companion animals. Pet care is provided at no charge for up to one month. Caseworkers at emergency shelters and transition houses are able to provide referrals to this program.
Other things to keep in mind
- If your animal is being threatened, keep any evidence you may have (such as photos, emails, or voice mail messages) to hand over to police.
- Any receipts or paperwork you have related to the purchase or care of your pet can be useful if you have to prove ownership.
What can I do if my pet has been abused?
Report animal abuse to one of the organizations listed below or to your local RCMP or municipal police. They will investigate the situation and take appropriate action. You can make an anonymous complaint.
The Saskatchewan Animal Protection Act makes it illegal for a person to cause or allow an animal to continue to be in “distress.” Distress is defined as:
- deprived of food, water, or adequate shelter;
- injured, sick, in pain, or suffering; or
- abused or neglected.
To report the neglect or abuse of:
- Regina Humane Society 306.543.6363
- Saskatoon SPCA 306.374.7387
- Moose Jaw Humane Society 306.692.1517
- Prince Albert SPCA 306.763.6110
Pets in all other locations or livestock anywhere in the province:
- Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan 844.382.0002
For emergencies and after-hours assistance:
- Contact your local RCMP or municipal police.
For more information:
211 Saskatchewan is a free, confidential, and searchable website of human services in Saskatchewan, with over 5,000 listings of social, community, non-clinical health, and government services across the province. The categories of listings include, but are not limited to, mental health and addictions, homelessness, income support, health care, food security and community programs.
With information adapted from http://www.albertaspca.org/neglect-abuse/cruelty-connection/victims.html