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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

Little by little, domestic violence shelters become pet-friendly

Friday, June 15, 2018

"Her boyfriend became abusive about six months after they met. He would drink himself into a stupor and tear the house apart while screaming and insulting her, once even threatening to snap her neck. She worried for herself, but also for her beloved golden retriever, Cody, whom she had rescued from an abusive former owner.

'The biggest argument I had with him in the beginning was saying, ‘Do not raise your voice in front of the dog. Don’t scream and yell in front of her. Don’t throw things around her,' recalled K., a steely 44-year-old who spent two decades in the military. 'These things traumatize her.’

The end came in February, when the boyfriend threw K. against a wall. The woman, whose name is being withheld to protect her, called the authorities and fled with Cody. The pair ended up staying at a friend’s, but it wasn’t a good situation. That’s when K. went online and happened upon a very rare place: a domestic violence shelter that allows pets.

Both K. and Cody have been bunking for three months at Community Action Stops Abuse, or CASA, a 100-bed shelter that can also accommodate up to four dogs and four cats. Outside a separate kennel building is a fenced, grassy area where Cody and her owner can play without fear.

Not long ago, they wouldn’t have had the option. CASA opened its kennel in early March, joining the small ranks of domestic violence shelters nationwide that accommodate pets. These shelters have emerged out of a growing awareness that pets are often used as pawns by abusers to maintain control over victims.

A widening body of research in the past two decades has found that abusers often threaten, injure and even kill victims’ animals, and surveys of women at shelters have found that about 20 percent to 50 percent say concerns about a pet’s fate delayed their decision to flee. These situations are particularly dire when victims are deeply attached to their pets, said Frank Ascione, a University of Denver psychologist who has published numerous studies on the topic."

Read the full article here.