When Marla entered the program she was hesitant to put her Havaneese mix, Lucy, in our care due to Lucy’s perceived medical issues. Marla was lead to believe, by her abuser, that Lucy was very sick and lucky to be alive; so sick that was wasn’t able to receive vaccines or be spayed. Her abuser controlled everything when it came to Lucy. From not allowing Marla to speak to the veterinarian, purchasing dog food, or even take Lucy on walks around the neighbourhood. Marla was convinced she had to stay home with Lucy at all times to monitor her so that she did not die.
Marla’s abuser used Lucy’s ‘health issues’ as another way to control Marla.
When the veterinarian examined Lucy it was determined that Lucy did have signs of organ damage, but had recovered and would be able to safely be vaccinated. Lucy would be able to live a long and healthy life with regular monitoring and eating a specialized diet. Lucy left the program vaccinated, spayed, and able to live the life of a normal dog. Marla could not wait to start taking Lucy on daily walks!
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.
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.