"The shelter has committed to providing emergency boarding at no cost — and it’s not just for pets of domestic violence victims, but for pets of people going through a variety of life challenges."
For many people, pets are a part of the family. They cop human food and sleep on the furniture. Some pet owners even dress their pups up. Often, a pet is man’s — or woman’s — best friend, an invaluable source of companionship and comfort.
But our four-legged friends may also be innocent victims in dangerous family affairs, like domestic violence.
Often, pets are used as the instruments of control that are hallmarks of domestic violence, and threats of violence toward a pet are often used as a means of power by an abusive family member, according to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Since domestic violence shelters don’t always allow pets, they can be one reason men or women might stay in a dangerous situation, according to the same study from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Animals can also become victims themselves.
Multiple studies have found that from 49 percent to 71 percent of battered women reported that their pets had been threatened, harmed or killed by their abusive partners, according to the Animal Welfare Institute, an organization that is dedicated to reducing animal cruelty. The institute found that 85 percent of domestic violence shelters indicated that women coming to their facilities reported incidents of pet abuse.
Fortunately, there’s a safety net in the works in the Monadnock Region.
The Monadnock Humane Society aims to adopt the Animal Safety Net Program (ASN) in June. Animal Safety Net is a California-based program that acts as a safe haven by providing temporary housing for pets and moving them into shelters while their owners get out of domestic violence and into somewhere safe.
The local humane society, at 101 Swanzey Road, is adopting that same program, but on steroids, so to speak.
The shelter has committed to providing emergency boarding at no cost — and it’s not just for pets of domestic violence victims, but for pets of people going through a variety of life challenges. This could include substance abuse recovery, homelessness, transitional housing and other financial struggles. Dogs, cats, small animals and birds are welcome.
The humane society cares for about 1,400 animals each year. It has sheltered animals whose owners were going through life challenges, before, but not through any official program. They’ve offered other resource programs like a pet food program where they supplied owners with free food and a child literacy program where kids read to dogs.
As part of the new program, the humane society will pick up the medical bill if the animal needs shots, neutering, vaccinations or treatment
“Oftentimes, if an animal’s living in a situation like a homeless situation or domestic violence, there might be some level of lack of care that’s been taking place, as well, just because they don’t have the financial means,” explained Kathy Collinsworth, the Monadnock Humane Society’s executive director.
That’s where the grant money the humane society has received will help the most, Collinsworth thinks.
In February, the shelter was chosen for a grant from the 100+ Women Who Care Cheshire County. The Monadnock Humane Society was the second-ever recipient of the collective donation from the chapter and received over $9,000. The group is based on the concept of bringing women together to make a larger impact on our community.
The roughly 40 foster families the shelter already works with will be approached to take in pets while their owners are going through their challenges, allowing the pet to stay in a home rather than a shelter. The foster family and the pet owner will have contact, so the owner can receive updates on their loved one.
Like the staff, foster families will go through training to learn how to handle issues of confidentiality.
Preventing animal abuse isn’t the only component of the program, but intervening in the abuse within the family too, Collinsworth explained.
Children who witness abuse have a strong likelihood of abusing animals or other people, Collinsworth explained, and if a victim of abuse has an outlet, they can take their child and animal to safety.
According to National Link Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revealing the link between various types of abuse, animal maltreatment is often “the tip of the iceberg” and the first warning sign of an individual or family in trouble.
“If we can get a child (out of a domestic violence situation) or somebody leaves a domestic violence situation sooner because they have a resource and a place to bring their animal, then they’re getting that child out of that domestic violence situation sooner,” Collinsworth explained.
Forms of abuse the shelter has dealt with are pet hoarding, neglectful situations and bestiality.
She expects the shelter will receive more animals who come from abusive households as word about the program spreads.
The Animal Safety Net Program is in the planning phases; the next step is to connect with local human service agencies such as the Department of Children, Youth and Families, Monadnock Family Services, Hundred Nights homeless shelter, Southwestern Community Services and Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention. The partnership will connect victims of domestic violence or other life challenges to the shelter so they’re animal can stay safe.
“We’re really excited to help,” Collinsworth said.
“Sometimes that animal is all (the victims) have left.”