October 18th, 2016
RedRover’s Domestic Violence Safe Housing grants provide funds to help domestic violence shelters become pet-friendly, so that no one has to choose between safety and family. This groundbreaking program continues to grow and make a powerful impact on domestic violence survivors and the people who help them.
Pets play a profound role in domestic violence situations. Studies found that up to 48% of women have delayed leaving their abuser, or have returned after leaving, out of fear that the abuser would harm their animals.
Since the program’s introduction in 2012, RedRover has awarded over $190,000 in Safe Housing grants to help 48 domestic violence shelters across the country offer a co-sheltering option to their clients. Some of those programs have been so successful – and have found that the need for co-sheltering is so great – that they are making plans to expand their facilities and services.
For some survivors, having a shelter that offered sanctuary to both them and their pets meant the difference between life and death. As one survivor told her advocate at Harbor House in Wisconsin, “If I couldn’t go there with my dogs, I would have probably gone back to [my abuser]. If I had to go back, I knew what was waiting for me. I know going back would have probably killed me in the long-term.”
Co-sheltering also made a big difference in the lives of her dogs. “After about two weeks they totally changed,” she told a local newspaper that featured her story. “I actually realized, wow, look how different they are. I think they were depressed.” Her own life reflected the impact as well. “When I didn’t have that constant fear anymore, I realized there is another way. Having your animals with you adds so much to your recovery.”
We asked some of our Safe Housing grant recipients what advice they have to offer shelters who are considering co-sheltering. The Rose Brooks Center says:
Just dive in! The hardest thing about starting a new program is figuring out how to make it work. In my experience, we have never been able to plan for the unexpected but have been able to problem solve when issues arise. The idea of allowing animals in a human shelter can sound daunting, but there are so many benefits! People connect with animal stories, often more than they do with DV stories. You do not need a fancy pet shelter to make this program work; all you need is a group of passionate people who are willing to problem solve. There are so many different ways to make this program work — you just have to start somewhere.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and you can support RedRover’s efforts to help families and pets affected by domestic violence by making a donation at RedRover.org/DonateRelief.