The vast majority of women’s shelters in Alberta are not equipped to intake pets; however, this does not mean those requiring help don’t show up with their pets. Typically, we are able to make arrangements to bring pets into our care when they arrive, but on rare occasions individuals will sneak pets into the shelter.
This is what happened with Mickey, the mouse. Mickey spent one night in the shelter, having been snuck in by his owner, a teenaged boy. Shelter staff came across a plastic storage container the boy kept in his room. It turns out Mickey had his own little mouse home built in a Rubbermaid container.
When shelter staff became aware of Mickey they contacted the Pet Safekeeping Program, and after a few conversations with the boy the boy understood why Mickey had to stay elsewhere while he remained in the shelter.
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.