By Katie Campbell, RedRover Outreach Manager

One hundred.  That’s how many Safe Housing grants RedRover has provided since 2012. 

In August, we joined forces with GreaterGood.org’s Rescue Rebuild program to utilize the funds from the 100th grant we provided to create on-site housing for Safe Voices in Maine – the first pet-friendly domestic violence (DV) shelter in Maine.  What does this mean for the communities served by Safe Voices? It means that more survivors AND their pets can find safety from abuse and begin the healing process together.  

Like Safe Voices, more and more DV shelters throughout the country are recognizing that a lack of pet-friendly programs means that survivors are delaying leaving (or not leaving at all) because they can’t take their pets with them.  These shelters are working together with local animal organizations, veterinarians, businesses, and others to create sustainable programs that allow for survivors to escape and stay safe with their pets. This means that the cycle of violence is broken and, for survivors with children, it means that the future generation is learning that animal abuse is not acceptable.  A win-win for everyone.  

But I hear you – starting a new program is not easy.  I’ve spent more than nine years working in social services overseeing and starting new programs, and the process is never what I’d consider “easy.”  So, how do you do it? How do you overcome all of the very real barriers to providing pet-friendly programs (e.g. allergies, liability, staff and board support, safety, and cost)?  

First, consider the following:

  • As many as 50% of survivors (we suspect this number could be higher) will delay leaving because they can’t take their pets with them.  
  • Often when they do leave their pet behind, that pet becomes a tool for the abuser to manipulate the survivor to return. 

Now, you can take these steps:

  • Write comprehensive policies and procedures and guidelines for both your survivors/residents and staff that fits your organization’s needs (don’t be afraid to start small!).   
  • Work with your community to establish partnerships with local animal organizations and veterinarians to create your program and to care for these pets when needed. 

The best part? You’ll likely have other members of your community who want to support your pet-friendly program – local businesses, restaurants, breweries/wineries/distilleries, and, of course, pet supply stores.  Think of all the classrooms and schools and service organizations that can donate their time and energy to your new program. Your pet-friendly program will even open your organization up to an all-new donor demographic – animal lovers – and will become a fundraising tool! 

The challenges are real, but we’re here to help… and you don’t have to do it alone!  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions you may have so that we can keep more people and pets together and safe.  

For more information, visit RedRover.org/safehousing or email kcampbell@redrover.org.