By Katie Campbell, RedRover Outreach Manager

As October comes to a close, so does another Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). Like most of 2020, DVAM has looked a bit different from years past. I’ve noticed many domestic violence organizations shifting to virtual events and conferences, and fundraising efforts have taken on a new tech-savvy approach. The shift can be a hard adjustment (ask my wife — she’ll tell you that change is hard for me!), but the shift to virtual events has also brought some undeniable good. 

For example, there is now the opportunity for more people to participate in conferences who wouldn’t have been able to attend in-person (As I write this, I’m attending NCADV’s virtual conference). It’s also forced me to work “harder” to engage others in the virtual context — to send that chat message or email to the speaker or attendee who has piqued my interest. From my home office in Nyack, NY, I’m making connections across the country (and beyond!).

But there have been challenges as well…

We recently asked a few of our domestic violence and animal organization partners to share what they’ve noticed this year in regards to pets and domestic violence. While each community’s experience is unique, here is some of the feedback that stood out to me: 

  • Multiple organizations shared an increase in abuse and/or an increase in survivors seeking assistance. One shelter in Iowa has seen a 28% increase in service requests since lockdown started, and one community in Indiana has had a 46% increase in 911 calls for domestic violence. 
  • Many shelters I’ve talked with have shared that they’ve limited the space available at their shelters to help mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19, and have turned to utilizing hotels rooms to meet increased demands. One shelter in Connecticut has experienced an 800% increase in hotel costs from March-August compared to the same period last year. 
  • Another shelter in Arizona had their highest intake of pets ever in September — welcoming in 10 pets!

I’m continually blown away by the flexibility and responsiveness of  domestic violence and animal organizations. To say that 2020 has been a challenging year is a big understatement. But the organizations I’ve talked to this year have risen to meet those challenges head-on. 

One prime example is Hope Haven of Cass County. 

I recently joined Greater Good Charities’ Rescue Rebuild program at Hope Haven to help expand their pet-friendly program. In the midst of all that is 2020, Hope Haven remained focused on their goal of expanding their services to meet the needs of survivors in their community. Through our Purple Leash Project, we were able to help Rescue Rebuild create a new “cat house” and “dog house, onsite” and build a safe and secure outdoor space that would enable residents to spend quality time with their dogs.

While we weren’t able to send a team of RedRover Responders volunteers, this is one of my favorite builds so far! And not just because I got to meet some very adorable adoptable kittens from the Harrisonville Animal Shelter. The Rescue Rebuild team really outdid themselves by creating cool and welcoming spaces for survivors to be with their pets. 

Want to take a tour of the finished project? Check out our Facebook live video!

Despite the many challenges we continue to face as a country, I’ve found so many reasons to celebrate our communities, people, and organizations coming together. From domestic violence organizations pivoting to virtual advocacy, to animal organizations shifting to (and even thriving with) foster-based programs, to individuals coming together to support each other through a myriad of ways… I do think there is much to celebrate this DVAM. Our work is clearly not done, and we at RedRover will continue to help bring more pet-friendly programs to communities across the country. But I think we can rest assured that progress is underway. 

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