October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Join the Purple Leash Project during Domestic Violence Awareness Month to recognize the critical lack of pet-friendly domestic violence shelters. With your support, we can help people and pets safely escape abuse - and heal - together.

Frequently Asked Questions

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  • Abusers can use pets as hostages to coerce survivors into returning to the abusive home. Allowing people to escape with their pets removes this barrier to safety.

    Including pets in the escape plan helps children understand the importance of how pets are treated.

    As part of healthy growth and development, bonding with animals teaches children empathy and compassion for other living creatures early in life. Breaking this bond can cause serious emotional difficulties for children and adults, particularly during a time of crisis (Jalongo, 2004; Melson, 2001).

  • Excerpt taken from Sheltering Animals and Families Together manual, 2015 edition.

    When a resident’s permitted stay at your shelter has ended, or when the resident is ready to leave, the goal is to have the resident find long-term, safe housing. Since some shelters provide long-term or transitional housing assistance, your shelter should also identify available pet-friendly housing so that outgoing residents can continue to be with and care for their pets. Developing a list of potential pet-friendly housing options in the community is an excellent partnering opportunity for shelters and animal protection organizations. Or check out http://www.myapartmentmap.com/pet_friendly/.

    You may want to see if there is any funding available to assist the client in covering a pet deposit. If no funding is currently available you may want to consider starting a fund of your own.

    If there is cause, helping your clients to get their animal prescribed as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) can help with housing. ESA 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 ESA. While they do offer a fee based service, they do 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.

    Situations may arise where a resident returns to an abusive partner. Given that children and pets may be returned to an environment known to be abusive, your shelter should follow existing protocols in this regard. Some protocols or state laws may call for notifying child protective services that a child may be returning to a dangerous home. If that is the case, then local animal protection agencies should be notified if a pet is being returned to an abusive home. An option to consider is asking the resident if she will sign over ownership of the pet to your program, which then allows you place the pet with your partner animal protection organization for placement in a new home. Seek guidance from your animal protection partner in this regard.

  • When establishing off-site sheltering, it is important to bring other professionals together to support your program. There are two key components to successfully launching and sustaining an off-site sheltering program: (1) partnering with an animal protection organization to house the pets; and (2) having the services of a veterinarian.

    The agency housing the pets needs to be licensed to take in and care for animals, such as an existing animal shelter or rescue organization.

  • No. Being able to accept pets, even in a limited capacity, is a great step toward helping more people reach safety. Discuss with you partner agency what kinds of animals they can board, as well as how many they can board at any one time. Some partner agencies will be able to accommodate small dogs, cats, and pocket pets, while others are able to accommodate larger animals or even farm animals. If your partner agency is unable to house large animals you may want to speak with a local SPCA or Humane Society, or even with a local stable, to see if temporary arrangements can be made if large animal boarding is needed.

  • The reasons for having a veterinarian available include: (1) to provide an initial examination of each pet to determine whether the animal has been abused or neglected (even if the injuries are in the healing process); (2) to provide general medical care to the pets, including updating vaccinations, providing flea/ parasite treatments and spaying/neutering; (3) to provide emergency care to pets suffering from illness or injury that may require surgery or other immediate attention; and (4) to provide an expert opinion in court should the need arise to verify animal cruelty.

    Having veterinary records listing your client as the caretaker and paying for the services can be beneficial if a custody dispute arises over the animal.

  • The cost of establishing your program will depend on what housing needs to be built at your partner agency. The initial start-up costs will likely be more than the maintenance. Many of the domestic violence shelters who have received a Safe Housing grant indicate that they do not have to take funds from their general operating budget and are funded by community support.

  • Residents will need to sign a boarding contract and release form when the pets start boarding. It is likely that your partner agency will already have this type of form. This stipulates that if they do not pick-up, or if they must relinquish their animal, the animal becomes the property of the boarding facility or your shelter. This will allow you and/or your partner animal protection organization to re-home the pet(s).

  • Excerpt taken from Sheltering Animals and Families Together manual, 2015 edition.

    The best way to fund your program is to engage your community, especially those who love animals. People who love animals and donate to animal causes will be a new donor opportunity for your shelter and should not be viewed as “taking away” from donors to animal shelters.

    Here are just a few fundraising options to consider:

    • Join in with your partner animal protection organization for a fundraiser and consider splitting the proceeds. Your partner animal protection organization should understand that your program is reducing the number of pets of domestic violence from entering their over-crowded shelter for adoption. Ask to join in on long-standing fundraisers that your animal protection organization has scheduled, or work to create new fundraising opportunities.
    • Reach out to community groups and classrooms and ask them to “adopt” your co-sheltering program. Be sure to provide a list of items that you need, or a fundraising goal, so that these groups and classrooms know what type of support you need. Consider having these groups host a pet food, toy or blanket drive.
    • Place donation canisters and drop boxes for pet-related items at local stores.
    • Ask local businesses to become a corporate sponsor of your co-sheltering program and include their store name/ logo on materials.
    • Seek to obtain materials and supplies through donations from community residents, your partner animal protection organization, your partner veterinarian, and local pet stores.
    • Be sure to add pet-related items to your shelters’ wish list so that people know what items to donate.
  • Yes, as long as that space is made available for the DV animals when needed.

  • Excerpt taken from Sheltering Animals and Families Together manual, 2015 edition.

    We recommend that your off-site sheltering program Director consult with an attorney regarding your state and local laws; however, no legal issue is insurmountable, and it should not create apprehension in starting co-sheltering. Below is a partial list of legal issues you may encounter.

    • Confidentiality of Location and Identity
    • Court Orders and Pet Protection Orders
    • Custody and Ownership Issues

    Sample forms in the SAF-T manual

    • Memorandum of Understanding Between Animal Protection Organization and SAF-T
    • SAF-T Intake Form
    • SAF-T Agreement Between Resident and Shelter
    • Consent and Release for Boarding at Animal Protection Organization
  • While the Safe Housing off-site shelter build grant funds cannot be used for transportation costs, that doesn’t mean that your program cannot include them. You may be able to find volunteers willing to help with transport from a safe/neutral location. Also, you can fundraise from the community to have these costs covered.

  • Emotional Support Animals (ESA) and Service Animals are covered under the Fair Housing Act, so they should pose no barrier to finding housing.

    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.

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