Frequently Asked Questions

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  • Over  70% of pet owning women entering shelters reported that their abuser had injured, killed or threatened family pets, and nearly 50% have delayed leaving an abusive situation out of  fear of harm to their animals. (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Carlisle-Frank, Frank and Nielsen, Pets as Pawns). A pet is often seen as the only form of non-judgmental support in the home. The bond this forges is so strong that many people would rather stay in the abusive situation than abandon their pets. As well, abusers can use pets as hostages to convince the survivor not to leave, or coerce survivors into returning to the abusive home. Allowing people to escape with their pets removes this barrier to safety. Including pets as a part of the family helps children understand that how pets are treated is important, and it validates their feelings for their pets.

  • No. Being able to accept pets, even in a limited capacity, is a great step toward helping more people reach safety.  You may be able to accommodate small dogs, cats, and pocket pets, while others are able to accommodate larger animals or even farm animals. If you are unable to house large animals you may want to speak with a local rescue group or even with a local stable, to see if temporary arrangements can be made if large animal boarding is needed. This is especially important in more rural areas.

  • Pet allergies are often the first concern when thinking about starting a pet program in a domestic violence organization. Thankfully, there are many ways to deal with them. If you’ve ever housed a survivor with a service animal, it’s possible your organization has already dealt with this situation. People with allergies have likely been dealing with them for quite some time, so they will know how to manage their symptoms. Be sure to ask about allergies on intake and consider having some common remedies, like allergy medication or sinus washes, on hand if possible. Keeping the areas where the pets are staying as clean as possible is the main way to keep allergens under control. You can also consider purchasing portable HEPA filter units for people with allergies, or consider installing a segregated split-air system in pet rooms.

    For more detailed information on program set-up, visit Don’t Forget the Pets, a collaboration between RedRover and Rescue Rebuild. Along with a lot of detailed information on building a pet program, Don’t Forget the Pets offers a training workshop and personal consultation through the coaching program.

  • When designing your pet program there are many things to consider, and many ways to make a “pet plan” that works for your community. 

    Regardless of where and how animals will ultimately be cared for, all programs will need to consider intake and quarantine. Pets will need a safe place to stay while their owners are going through intake at the domestic violence organization, so having a crate or kennel near a case worker’s office can help this process go more smoothly. In addition, having a quarantine area at the location the pets will be staying can give pets time to acclimate to a new environment, and give vaccines, wormers, and flea medications time to work.

    The rest of the program is up to the needs of the community and the space available for pets. Pets can be housed at a domestic violence organization in survivor’s rooms, in rooms dedicated to pet housing, or in kennels on the property but separate from the main shelter. They can be housed at an animal organization and kept separate from the general shelter animals, or a space can be purpose built for them. Domestic violence and animal organizations can even collaborate to build a foster program, so pets can be cared for in a home environment.

    This information was summarized from Don’, a collaboration between RedRover and Rescue Rebuild. Along with a lot of detailed information on building a pet program, Don’t Forget the Pets offers a training workshop and personal consultation through the coaching program.

  • Necessary partnerships – Domestic violence and animal organizations must have an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in place to apply. This MOU outlines the  responsibilities of each organization, such as consultation on animal issues, emergency boarding space, or having an advocate available to speak with someone trying to relinquish an animal due to domestic violence. If veterinary services cannot be provided by the animal organization, a partnership with one or more veterinary clinics is recommended. It is hoped that this cooperation will lead to closer partnerships between organizations, and that they will help keep each other informed on the needs of the community. 

    Recommended partnerships – We also suggest reaching out to community organizations, such as the Girl Scouts, local pet supply stores, places of worship, etc., to see if they are able to fulfill any program needs through community service or donations. Ongoing needs, such as  pet food and supplies, leashes and collars, or short-term needs like help with landscaping or organizing, can often be filled by volunteers and fundraisers. To learn more about why collaboration is key, visit Don’

  • Pets involved in domestic violence are often in need of basic veterinary care, such as vaccinations or spay/neuter. It’s possible that the animal may never have been seen by a veterinarian before. If the survivor was abused financially, that can manifest in the abuser not allowing money to be spent on things important to their victim, like pet care. A general health assessment will be useful in finding what care may be needed for the animal during their stay. It’s also possible that the animal was injured by the abuser, and may need urgent or emergency care. Finally, having a record of ownership and care can help the survivor in legal proceedings, like proving abuse and/or custody. A small portion of the Safe Housing grant can be used to start an emergency medical fund.

  • Safe Housing funds can be used by domestic violence organizations to start a boarding program, but may not be used to sustain an existing program. Funds can be requested to cover up to two years of boarding costs. After those two years it is expected that the organization will be able to continue and sustain the program on their own. We  require that the funds requested be based on a realistic estimate of the animals likely to use your pet program each year.

    The cost of boarding will vary depending on the boarding facility. We recommend speaking with multiple boarding facilities in your area to find the one(s) willing to provide great care at a reasonable price. You may want to consider making boarding agreements with multiple boarding facilities to ensure that no one facility is overwhelmed. RedRover has found that the average cost of boarding is around $20-30 day for both dogs and cats. If the boarding facility is able to offer discounted boarding, you may be able to treat that discount as an in-kind donation so it will be tax deductible.

  • In our experience, 30-35% of families escaping abuse with a pet will have more than one. We recommend taking this into consideration when making program plans. This is why having relationships with more than one boarding facility, veterinarian, or other animal care partner is recommended, so that you can ensure that no one partner is overwhelmed.

  • We recommend having only the pet’s family, and/or a designated staff person, interact with the pets. This is a stressful time for everyone, pets included, and even a pet who is normally even tempered can behave aggressively out of fear. Pets should especially be kept separate from non-family children, as children can have an extremely difficult time understanding animal body language. We’ve seen some shelters institute a colored leash program, so if an animal has a red leash it’s a clear signal not to touch. Limiting exposure to other residents may also be required by your insurance carrier.

  • Ideally yes, but a plan should be established between the domestic violence and animal organization partners beforehand. The safety of everyone involved is most important, but allowing visitation can help ensure reunification once the survivor transitions away from the domestic violence agency. Visiting their pets can also help children by providing support and the comfort of a normal activity during such a chaotic time. 

  • The goal of the Safe Housing grant is to allow survivors to find safety with their pets, so ideally the pets would be cared for until the survivor finds housing outside of the domestic violence organization. A survivor’s stay in an emergency domestic violence shelter is typically 30-90 days, but some programs can be longer. Transitional programs are often longer, and transitional housing is often not pet friendly. For animals not being housed with survivors at a domestic violence organization, incorporating foster may be a way to get the animals some relief from long-term kenneling. The average length of stay for pets, reported by both Safe Housing grant recipients and through our Safe Escape program, is about 45 days.

  • Yes, as long as that space is made available for the Safe Housing program pets when needed.

  • The cost of establishing your pet program will depend on how you intend to care for survivor’s pets. The initial start-up costs will likely be more than the maintenance. One of the great things about having a program that helps both pets and domestic violence survivors is that it can open up another area of fundraising for your organization. People who may not donate to an animal shelter or a domestic violence shelter may choose to donate to a program that keeps survivors and their pets safe. We always suggest that you plan to budget for recurring costs like food, litter, toys, etc., but many of our Safe Housing grant recipients report having great success reaching out to their local community to help with these needs. Here are a few ideas:

    • Pet food drives using local radio or television stations 
    • Partnerships with area pet stores where people can donate food, toys, leashes, collars, etc. 
    • Amazon wish list donations 
    • A local volunteer group/scout troop/classroom can make “welcome packets” for the pets to use during their stay, and also take with them that include special bowls, collar and leash, toys, treats, etc., for each pet
    • Fun event like a raffle that local businesses can donate to
  • These funds are meant to cover up to two years of specific program costs. They are intended to be a springboard to help your organization launch your own pet program. During the time your program is funded by our grant you will be expected to be working on funding and fundraising solutions to ensure that the pet program continues after our funding has been exhausted. You will be required to demonstrate your plans for program sustainability in the grant application. 

    If you still have funds remaining after the two year mark, then those funds can continue to be used until exhausted. Funds must continue to be used for their intended purpose, i.e. veterinary care, boarding, etc.

  • Yes! Safe Housing grant funds can be used to pay for the office visits and vaccinations needed to safely house animals. You may also include additional veterinary costs, like spay/neuter and/or an emergency fund, in your program budget. Depending on the amount requested, we may approve all or only a portion of the amount. We recommend making one line item in your budget for vaccinations, etc., that are necessary for housing animals, and another for other veterinary costs. We require that the funds requested be based on a realistic estimate of the animals likely to use your pet program within a year.

  • RedRover will consider assisting with funds for pet deposits if they are included in your program budget. Funding priority will be given to program costs directly related to caring for animals while they are in the pet program. This funding request should be based on average pet deposit costs in your area, and take into account whether any of the pet owners will be able to use victim compensation funds to cover these costs. Pet deposits can be a barrier to a survivor’s ability to leave shelter, we recommend that this issue be addressed by your pet program.

  • Safe Housing grant funds cannot be used for transportation costs, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot include them in your program. You may be able to find volunteers willing to help with transport from a safe/neutral location. You can also fundraise from the community to have these costs covered (e.g. “Your $15 donation can help transport a pet to safety.”)

  • Finding housing that allows pets can be difficult. We suggest researching pet-friendly apartments/rental agencies as soon as possible. In some states, victim compensation funds can be used to cover the cost of a pet deposit. If that is not available in your area, that may be something you can plan on including in your fundraising efforts for the program. A small portion of the Safe Housing grant may be used toward pet deposits.

    If there is cause, helping your clients to get their animal prescribed as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) can help with housing. ESAs are covered under the Fair Housing Act, though they do not have all the same protections as Service Animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Here is a website with information on ESAs. While they do offer a fee based service, they also have a lot of useful information available without having to apply for an ESA letter. If you do not have a therapist able to prescribe an ESA, they have therapists who review applications and will write an ESA letter if they believe that the applicant’s situation qualifies. If not, the fee is refunded.

  • Emotional Support Animals (ESA) and Service Animals are covered under the Fair Housing Act, so they should pose no barrier to finding housing. Your client must have an ESA letter issued by a qualified doctor or therapist for their pet to legally qualify as an ESA. These letters are typically good for one year.

    Keep in mind that ESA do not have the same protections as Service Animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Only a fully trained animal is considered a Service Animal. Service Animals in training are not protected by the ADA. If your client is disabled they can hire a trainer, or train their own dog, to get their dog to perform a task/tasks to assist them as a Service Animal (only dogs and miniature horses qualify as Service Animals at this time). Here is a resource listing some of the Service Dog tasks for psychiatric disabilities (panic disorder, PTSD, depression, etc.)

    Here is an FAQ from the US Department of Justice on Service Animals and the ADA.

    In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions:

    1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
    2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? (Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.)

    There is no national registry for Service Animals or ESA. Your clients do not have to carry a special card, have their dog wear a vest, or pay a registration fee to have a Service Animal or ESA. If they desire a vest (which can help people to maintain their distance), both Service Animal and ESA vests are available through online retailers like Amazon. There are even wallet cards available that can help people explain their rights regarding their service animal.

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