September 1st, 2023
By Shawna Howard, Compliance Coordinator at The Spring Shelter
My name is Shawna Howard, Compliance Coordinator at The Spring Shelter in Oklahoma, a certified shelter for victims and their children. Our journey to becoming pet friendly started with awareness. After attending a training led by Phil Arkow of the National Link Coalition, I realized the terrible gap in services for a specific population: survivors with pets. We had heard so many stories of our clients escaping abuse while also not knowing where they could bring their pets, and if they could go together.
For our clients and so many more survivors of domestic violence (DV), we support the 25 by 2025 movement, and RedRover’s work to help 25% of shelters become pet friendly by 2025. Whether you’re an advocate, DV shelter looking to become pet friendly, or an already pet-friendly DV shelter like us, download the toolkit today to inform your network, your officials, and local organizations why they should support the campaign.
Initially, it can be easy to believe that pets are not within our scope of work as we have dedicated our lives to human services. But the stories of our clients and the pets that endured abuse alongside them, the link between human and animal violence, and the opportunity to bring a guest into the shelter, and decrease the risk of them returning to an abusive partner were among the strongest factors pushing us to make becoming pet friendly a reality for our clients and staff.
“Here, a client’s one safe ‘person,’ (their pet) can be brought with them while they’re going through one of the toughest seasons of their lives. They go out to the kennel while their pet is sleeping and read a book, or just sit with them,” shared our Guest Advocate and Pet Program Manager Lynn Bryant.
One client, Shea*, wasn’t sure if they made the right decision to escape abuse while worried for their cat’s safety, but after recovering Mr. Kitty* and bringing him along to the shelter with new shelves to climb, a cat tree to scratch, and people and dogs to watch through his window, Shea knew that their only option was escaping their home together.
Since our shelter renovation with the help of RedRover and Greater Good Charities’ Rescue Rebuild program, The Spring has welcomed over 20 cats and dogs with their owners. Our team feels relief in the ability to provide crucial services to pets along with their people. As many in our field can attest to, it’s hard to turn anybody down knowing that they need help.
Thank you for being a part of this crucial campaign. We know that pets are important to survivors’ healing and wellbeing, and we can pledge to support more spaces where pets and people can rebuild, together.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy. Survivor story shared with permission.