The work we do is very rewarding. It’s also, at times, very hard.
We recently had a beloved family dog come into the care of our Pet Safekeeping Program. She had been there for her human through many years of ups, and unfortunately, many downs as her owner had been living in an abusive home. Sugar was 17 years old and had numerous age-related health issues, including challenges with mobility, kidney function, eyesight, hearing and dental.
Based on Sugar’s health challenges, the veterinarian recommended she be euthanized. We were able to facilitate this, ensuring Sugar was surrounded by staff at the clinic.
Our goal is always re-unite pets with their families, but that’s not always possible. In this case, while we couldn’t see Sugar and her human back together again, we were able to return Sugar’s remains and other keepsakes to her owner.
The decisions we face are not easy but we strive to ensure the animal’s welfare is first and foremost in every decision we make. Sometimes that means the most compassionate decision is to end an animal’s suffering. However, the compassion doesn’t end there, and in this case we ensured the owner’s memories of Sugar were memorialized so her best friend, who was always there through difficult times, is forever with her.
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.