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Safety Planning for Animals
If someone approaches you for advice on how to protect their animals from violence or abuse taking place in the home, the following ideas may be useful:
Try to remove the animals from the situation as soon as possible.
Ask trusted friends or family members to care for animals temporarily.
Contact a kennel to make arrangements to have pets boarded. Kennels will require proof of vaccinations. This information is often listed on veterinary invoices; alternatively, the veterinarian may be able to supply a full vaccination record directly to the boarding kennel, upon request.
Talk with local veterinarians, SPCAs/Humane Societies and animal rescues to determine if they can provide animal care.
Gather supplies that might be useful if you have to leave quickly with your pet: a carrier, a favourite toy, bedding, a collar and leash, medications.
Prepare a list of things a temporary caregiver should be aware of, including the pet’s daily routine, diet and feeding schedule, medical conditions and treatments, or behaviour issues.
If animals are being threatened, keep any evidence you may have (such as photos, emails, or voice mail messages) to provide to police.
Gather receipts or paperwork related to the purchase or care of pets to help prove ownership.
Warning signs of possible animal abuse
Signs of animal abuse can be similar to those seen in children experiencing abuse.
Neglect: animal in poor physical condition, emaciated, unkempt, matted fur
Physical injuries: burns, bruises, lacerations, fractures
Emotional abuse: animal demonstrates fearful behaviour or cowers in the presence of the abuser
Animal hoarding – having more animals than you can adequately care for – is another type of abuse. Animal hoarding can be associated with elder abuse, child abuse, and self-neglect.
In addition to what you might see in the home, you might hear conflicting or improbable explanations for injuries suffered by the animal. The victim or children in the family may tell you about threats of violence or actual abuse to animals that is taking place.
Questions to ask
Ask questions about the presence and safety of animals in the home at intakes, client assessments, and interviews.
Do you have animals in the home?
Are you concerned about their safety?
Do you have a place to take them to keep them safe?
Do you need our assistance in doing so?
Animal Safekeeping Programs
The victims of interpersonal violence and abuse may stay in a violent situation in order to protect their animals. Some victims risk their own lives by returning home in order to feed and care for their animals.
Animal safekeeping programs help promote the safety and wellbeing of individuals leaving a violent situation by providing short-term temporary care for their animals. Options for animal safekeeping may include:
Foster-based programs rely on volunteer caregivers to provide short-term care of pets while the owners are staying in domestic violence shelters or transition housing.
“Pet-friendly” domestic violence shelters
A limited number of domestic violence shelters and transition houses in Canada allow victims to bring their pets with them. (However, there are currently no Saskatchewan domestic violence shelters that accept pets.) Depending on the facility, pets may be cared for in the victim’s room, or in a kennel at the domestic violence shelter.
Partnerships with an animal shelter
Domestic violence shelters may collaborate on a formal or informal basis with local animal shelters to provide temporary care for pets owned by the victims of interpersonal violence and abuse.
Pet Safekeeping in Saskatchewan
A limited number of pet safekeeping programs are available in Saskatchewan. These include:
The Regina Humane Society Safe Places Program accepts family pets when a victim of domestic violence is leaving, or has already left the home to enter a shelter environment. Click here to learn more about the RHS Safe Places Program.
The Saskatoon SPCA Pet Safekeeping Program assists the victims of domestic violence with the short-term care of companion animals. For further information, please contact 306-374-7387.
New Hope Dog Rescue's Animal Safekeeping (ASK) Program provides free care for pets owned by the victims of interpersonal violence. The foster homes have received specialized training to meet the needs of pets coming from homes where there has been violence or abuse. Click here to learn more about the ASK Program.
Established by the Swift Current SPCA, the ASK (Animal Safekeeping) Program assists local victims of domestic violence and their pets. Service is available on a referral basis through Southwest Crisis Service. For more information, phone 306-778-3386.
In the Melfort area, the North East SPCA works with North East Outreach and Support Services to care for pets owned by the victims of domestic violence. To learn more about the Safe Haven program, contact 306-752-7722.
List of Resources
"Domestic Violence & Access to Justice: A Mapping of Relevant Laws, Policies and Justice System Components Across Canada" was published and written by Jennifer Koshan, Janet Mosher and Wanda Wiegers.
The above e-book is aimed primarily at people working with and supporting survivors of domestic violence, as well as researchers and government actors. It includes a comprehensive survey of legislation, key government policies, and justice system components that apply to domestic violence across Canada, and is intended to provide legal information and not legal advice. The eBook is fully searchable, with links to the relevant legislation and policies, and has a Glossary of terms at the end.
Peaceful Homes: A Guide to the Prevention of Violence in the Home During and After Lockdowns | The Canadian Municipal Network on Crime Prevention
This document has been developed as a practical resource for decision-makers, municipal stakeholders, and organizations to better understand the increased risk of family violence during COVID-19, highlight the potential long-term effects of violence, and identify approaches and programs that can help prevent violence in homes.
Journal Article: Animals & IPV- Survivor Survey
The article Intimate Partner Violence, Animal Maltreatment, and Concern for Animal Safekeeping: A Survey of Survivors Who Owned Pets and Livestock, written by the Director of Research and Communications Crystal Giesbrecht from the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS), is now available in Violence Against Women. Read the journal article here. Read the text version of the article here.
An online survey was completed by victims/survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV), living in both urban and rural areas, who owned pets and/or livestock. Quantitative and qualitative data regarding barriers to accessing support and escaping IPV are presented for both pet and livestock owners. Using validated measures of IPV and animal abuse, differences in experiences of IPV are described for victims who had experienced their partners mistreat their animals and those who had not. Recommendations are offered for training, legislation, and pet-friendly domestic violence shelters and rental housing.
This survey was part of a larger mixed-methods study which included interviews with victims/survivors who owned animals, an online survey for the general public, and online surveys for human service and animal welfare professionals. This study is part of a partnership between PATHS and the SaskSPCA.
Journal Article: Animals & IPV - Experiences of Service Providers
The article Animal Safekeeping in Situations of Intimate Partner Violence: Experiences of Human Service and Animal Welfare Professionals is now available online in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Read the journal article here. Read the text version of the article here.
This study documented human service and animal welfare service providers’ experiences supporting victims/survivors of IPV who owned pets and livestock, and included service providers in rural and northern communities in Saskatchewan. Online surveys were completed by 128 human service professionals (including domestic violence shelter workers, domestic violence counsellors, victim services workers, police, and legal professionals) and 43 animal welfare professionals (including workers from animal rescues, humane societies, SPCAs, and veterinary clinics) (n= 171). Respondents shared information relating to their awareness of the link; their experiences responding in situations of IPV and concurrent animal abuse, including arranging animal safekeeping in situations of IPV; and successes and challenges related to effective service provision.
Wuerch, M. A., Giesbrecht, C. J., Jeffery, N., Knutson, T., & Wach, F. (2021). Intimate Partner Violence and Concern for Animal Care and Safekeeping: Experiences of Service Providers in Canada. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(9-10). Article first published online: August 24, 2018. (Read on the journal’s website here or read the text version here.)
Wuerch, M. A., Giesbrecht, C. J., Price, J. A. B., Knutson, T., & Wach, F. (2020). Examining the Relationship Between Intimate Partner Violence and Concern for Animal Care and Safekeeping. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 35(9-10). Article first published online: March 28, 2017. (Read on the journal’s website here or read the text version here.)
In order to learn more about the impact of violence on both animals and people, the SaskSPCA undertook a research study in partnership with STOPS to Violence and the Provincial Association of Transition Houses & Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS).
The Link: Interpersonal Violence and Abuse and Animal Safekeeping was undertaken as a way to answer to questions:
Is the concern for the safety of companion animals and livestock a barrier to individuals leaving situations of interpersonal violence and abuse in Saskatchewan?
Are there existing networks and supports in Saskatchewan that provide safekeeping of animals for individuals leaving situations of interpersonal violence and abuse?
Participants in the study included both human service agencies and animal welfare organizations in Saskatchewan.
92% of human service workers taking part in the study agreed that the care and safekeeping of animals can impact planning and decision making for individuals leaving abusive relationships.
77.55% of respondents from the human services sector indicated awareness of someone who did not leave an abusive relationship due to concern for the care and safekeeping of animals.
65% of human service agencies had received requests to help with the temporary safekeeping of animals.
Survey participants noted the many challenges faced by women who own pets or livestock when leaving situations of interpersonal violence. The study revealed that animals can be used to threaten, intimidate, and silence the victims of abuse in situations involving family violence.
Protecting the Victims of Domestic Violence and their Animals Through the Use of Protective Orders
Ownership of animals is a barrier for many victims of interpersonal violence and abuse when seeking assistance at domestic violence shelters or transition houses. While many pet owners view their animals as members of the family, the Canadian legal system views animals as a form of “property.” Only two Canadian provinces include the terms “pets” or “animals” under their respective family violence legislation.
The following article explores current Canadian legislation and suggests possible directions for legal reforms that might benefit the victims of violence who own animals.
The article was prepared by Pro Bono Students Canada Volunteers. Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) is a student organization. PBSC students are not lawyers and are not authorized to provide legal advice. The information contained in the article is intended for general informational purposes only. Please consult with a lawyer to discuss your situation and specific legal questions you have.
Protecting the Victims of Domestic Violence and their Animals Through the Use of Protective Orders
Domestic Violence Death Review Final Report
In 2018, the final report from the Saskatchewan Domestic Violence Death Review panel was released.
The final report is the result of an in-depth look at six specific cases of homicide related to domestic violence.
Violence Link Literature Review
In conjunction with Humane Canada, the national voice for animal welfare, Teena Stoddart recently undertook a literature review pertaining to the violence link. The twelve-page review highlights several areas within the violence link, such as intimate partner and domestic violence, youth, and major crimes. Stoddart’s review provides further context to the violence link as it goes beyond the well-known Venn diagram which often serves as a visual representation of incidents of violence.
Canadian residential facilities for victims of abuse, 2017/2018
Excerpt from page 6 of the report:
“An important service that has been recently identified as critical to those escaping violence is the accommodation of pets. The abuse of a pet or the threat thereof frequently co-occurs with domestic violence and is employed by the abuser as a means of preventing victims from leaving their homes (Barrett et al. 2017; Shelter Voices 2018; Stevenson 2009). In 2017/2018, 19% of residential facilities offered pet accommodations in some capacity. According to the Shelter Voices Survey conducted by Women’s Shelters Canada, a lack of resources was the most common reason why women’s shelters were unable to offer pet accommodation services (Shelter Voices 2018).”
Other Research Articles
Wuerch, M. A., Giesbrecht, C. J., Jeffery, N., Knutson, T., & Wach, F. (2018). Intimate Partner Violence and Concern for Animal Care and Safekeeping: Experiences of Service Providers in Canada. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Article first published online: August 24, 2018.
Wuerch, M. A., Giesbrecht, C. J., Price, J. A. B., Knutson, T., & Wach, F. (2017). Examining the Relationship Between Intimate Partner Violence and Concern for Animal Care and Safekeeping. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Article first published online: March 28, 2017.
Allison, M., Satterwhite, C., Ramaswamy, M., Hynek, M., & Agnew-Svoboda, Z. (2017). Strategies veterinary practices can use to address the problem of intimate partner violence. Journal of the American Veterinary Association, 250, 42-45.
Collins, E., Cody, A., McDonald, S., Nicotera, N., Ascione, F., & Williams, J. (2018). A template analysis of intimate partner violence survivors’ experiences of animal maltreatment: Implications for safety planning and intervention. Violence Against Women, 24, 452-476.
Degue, S., & Dilillo, D. (2009). Is animal cruelty a "red flag" for family violence? Investigating co-occurring violence toward children, partners, and pets. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 24, 1036-1056.
Febres, J., Shorey, R.C., Brasfield, H., Zucosky, H.C., Ninnemann, A., Elmquist, J., Bucossi, M.M., Andersen, S.M., Schonbrun, Y.C., & Stuart, G.L. (2012). Adulthood animal abuse among women court-referred to batterer intervention programs. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 27, 3115-3126.
McDonald, S.E., Collins, E.A., Maternick, A., Nicotera, N., Graham-Bermann, S., Ascione, F.R., & Williams, J.H. (2017). Intimate partner violence survivors’ report of their children’s exposure to companion animal maltreatment: A qualitative study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1-26.
Peak, T., Ascione, F., & Doney, J. (2012). Adult protective services and animal welfare: Should animal abuse and neglect be assessed during adult protective services screening? Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 24, 37-49.
Riggs, D., Taylor, N., Fraser, H., Donovan, C., & Signal, T. (2018). The link between domestic violence and abuse and animal cruelty in the intimate relationships of people of diverse genders and/or sexualities: A binational study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1-27. DOI: 088626051877168.
The Link Informational Brochures
The Saskatchewan SPCA has developed a series of brochures outlining pet safety planning and how to recognize and report abuse.