Safety For Animals
& People In Crisis

When Natasha and her dog, Daisy, first entered the Pet Safekeeping Program it became apparent that she was facing many barriers to an independent life away from her abusive partner. Natasha was unable to apply for any income supports and could not find work because she did not have Canadian citizenship. Natasha, like so many others, stayed in an abusive relationship for a very long time because she felt she had no other options.

Eventually Natasha made the brave step to leave. She stayed in shelter for four months, and was able to begin the process of obtaining citizenship so it appeared she would be able to start working soon. She met an older couple through her church who offered for her to live with them, rent free, until she was able start work. Natasha missed Daisy dearly, not only was she her companion through one of the toughest times in her life, but she had her for many years before moving to Canada together. Natasha jumped at the opportunity to be able to move in with this new family, and have her dog back with her.

A few months later Natasha called our program again, desperate for help. Due to unexpected delays in processing paperwork as a result of COVID-19 she still did not have her citizenship. This meant she still did not have access to work. Natasha went to stay at another women’s shelter and Daisy came back into our program to stay with us.

Natasha obtained her citizenship about one month after she came back into the program, she also qualified for a loan so she could find housing immediately.

Nine months after Natasha first fled her husband, and after Daisy spent 6 months in our care, we were able to reunite them for good. Natasha was relieved and excited that she could finally start her new life with Daisy.  

This story is not unique.

A 2012 report by the Alberta SPCA found that 59% of domestic violence survivors reported they had delayed fleeing their abusive situation due to concern for their pets. In that same report, one in three victims reported their abuser either threatened or harmed their animals. In cases that involved children, 85% of victims reported their children witnessed the threats or harm to the animals.

The Alberta SPCA’s Pet Safekeeping Program was launched in 2014 to help find placement for pets while domestic violence victims entered into a safe shelter. Since its inception, the Pet Safekeeping Program has seen exponential growth, with the number of people and pets helped each year increasing by more than 400%. Clients are referred to the Program by a partner agency or self-referral, and once accepted, the pets receive a full medical exam, vaccinations and other required treatments.

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While there are different forms of abuse that occur in a broad range of relationships, a common occurrence in all of these abusive relationships is cruelty to animals at the hands of the abuser.

Refuge should be available to everyone.