Marcy, a social worker from an addictions centre, contacted the One Family Welfare department to inquire about supports for her client Rebecca. Rebecca fled an abusive home in another province with her three pets. She was having a hard time coping with her trauma and substance abuse issues which made her recovery challenging.
Rebecca had two cats and a dog (Tink, Blink and Cheese) that were living in a small car with her. She would not enter full-time programming because she worried about her pets as they were her family. The social worker explained, without utilizing their recovery program full-time, it was unlikely Rebecca would overcome all of her issues.
After several phone calls with both Marcy and Rebecca, arrangements were made to bring the pets into the Pet Safekeeping Program.
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.