Santa Barbara Independent posted on

Every hour of every day in the United States alone, hundreds of people and their companion animals suffer abuse. Animal cruelty is strongly correlated with violence against people, and pets are often used as “pawns” in domestic violence situations to prevent family members from speaking up or leaving the abusive relationship. In fact, survivors stay on average two years longer in a violent home if there’s a family pet involved.

This is why C.A.R.E.4Paws, Domestic Violence Solutions for Santa Barbara County (DVS) and Elings Park invite the animal-loving community to Walk Against Abuse on Sunday, September 18, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m, at Elings Park in Santa Barbara. The inaugural event raises funds and awareness for Safe Haven, a C.A.R.E.4Paws program that provides anonymous boarding or foster care for pets of domestic violence survivors. Safe Haven was launched in 2020 alongside DVS to ensure pet owners can leave abusive partners and seek emergency shelter through DVS or a similar agency without fearing for the safety and well-being of their beloved pets.

family walking dogs through field during the golden hour

Walk Against Abuse includes a dog walk through beautiful Elings Park (starting at noon), fun activities, food, music and a presentation about how Safe Haven prevents suffering and saves lives, as well as how to become a Safe Haven foster family. Entry is $25 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. Plus, community members and local businesses can choose from several sponsorship opportunities that help pay for Safe Haven expenses, such as pet boarding fees, animal training, pet food, vaccines, spays/neuters, medical care and pet housing deposits for four-legged clients.

“Everywhere around us, people and pets are harmed daily by a family member,” says C.A.R.E.4Paws’ cofounder and executive director Isabelle Gullo, who explains that domestic violence crosses all social and economic boundaries and, when it comes to animal cruelty, especially, most cases are never reported. “Safe Haven provides a much-needed refuge for vulnerable pets, while giving their loving owners a chance to escape the abuse. We’re very excited about our inaugural Walk Against Abuse, as the event allows the community to come together to raise awareness and support for a truly critical program.”

Many Safe Haven pets stay with C.A.R.E.4Paws for several months or sometimes longer than a year, as it is difficult for survivors to rebuild their lives, let alone find pet-friendly housing. In addition to DVS, other program collaborators include the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office Victim-Witness Assistance Program and Good Samaritan Shelters, whose advocates are trained to help survivors of abuse. Survivors can also contact C.A.R.E.4Paws directly for help.

“DVS is grateful for our partnership with C.A.R.E.4Paws to provide safe and loving foster care for the pets of survivors during one of the most difficult times in their lives,” says Domestic Violence Solutions’ executive director Marilyn Simon-Gersuk. “It’s vital to DVS that our clients’ families, including their pets, have access to supportive care. Safe Haven ensures that survivors have peace of mind knowing that their beloved pets are safe.”

To learn more about the event and ticket/sponsor options, visit the Walk Against Abuse event website. For more information about C.A.R.E.4Paws’ Safe Haven program, visit care4paws.org/safehaven or contact C.A.R.E.4Paws at [email protected] or 805-968-2273.

About C.A.R.E.4Paws

C.A.R.E.4Paws—short for Community Awareness, Responsibility & Education—works to reduce pet overpopulation, keep animals out of shelters and improve quality of life for pets and pet owners in need. The organization was founded in 2009 with the goal to promote animal welfare and alleviate the burden of Santa Barbara County shelters by intervening before animals become homeless. Its critical services include free spays/neuters, assistance with veterinary care and low-cost vaccine events in C.A.R.E.4Paws’ own mobile veterinary clinics; distribution of pet food and supplies; support for domestic violence survivors and their pets through Safe Haven; Paws Up For Pets youth education that inspires compassion and accountability for animals; and Pet Emergency Training (P.E.T.) for First Responders. In 2022, C.A.R.E.4Paws expanded its mobile clinic services to San Luis Obispo County. Learn more at care4paws.org.

About Domestic Violence Solutions

Domestic Violence Solutions (DVS) is the only agency in Santa Barbara County that provides emergency shelter and supportive services to survivors of domestic violence and their families. DVS operates two shelters in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, and a permanent project-based Section 8 housing facility in Santa Barbara. In addition, DVS operates two crisis lines (South County: 805-964- 5245, North County: 805-925-2160) on a 24/7 basis which helps callers find safety, support and refuge from domestic abuse. DVS partners with law enforcement, emergency rooms and health care providers to identify and assist survivors of domestic violence. In addition to emergency services, DVS provides its clients with counseling and referrals for permanent housing, employment and job skills. For more information, please visit dvsolutions.org.

About Elings Park

More than 40 years ago, the founders of Elings Park had a unique vision for this spectacular site: to provide recreational facilities in an exceptional setting for the benefit of all citizens of the Santa Barbara area. As part of their plan, they insisted that the park would be created, maintained and operated without the use of a single taxpayer dollar. Operated by the Elings Park Foundation, it is the largest community-supported nonprofit public park in America — more than 200,00 visitors use the 230-acre park annually. Learn more at elingspark.org