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The Conversation: People in abusive relationships face many barriers to leaving — pets should not be

There are many challenges and barriers to leaving an abusive partner, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this problem. While the pandemic will recede, the epidemic of intimate partner violence in Canada will remain.

The death toll of people — overwhelmingly women — killed by their intimate partners continues to climb. Decisive action must be taken to remove or, at least, mitigate the barriers to leaving abusive relationships.

Companion animals, or pets, aren’t generally thought of as barriers, yet they often are in the context of intimate partner violence. The majority of Canadians have pets and consider them family.

Most domestic violence shelters in Canada, however, don’t accommodate pets. This reality, coupled with the close relationship many people have with their pets, creates a significant — though underacknowledged — barrier to leaving an abusive relationship.

Many Canadians must decide whether to remain with their abuser or flee and leave their pets behind.

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