For the first time in Santa Barbara County, victims of domestic violence have a safe place to take their pets as they seek shelter from abusive partners.
On Saturday, C.A.R.E.4Paws, Domestic Violence Solutions for Santa Barbara County, area animal shelters and pet service providers launched Safe Haven, a new program designed to provide a temporary, anonymous refuge for the pets of those fleeing domestic violence.
Abuse victims can now leave with their pets to enter emergency shelters managed by Domestic Violence Solutions, and confidential foster care or boarding for the animals will be arranged by C.A.R.E.4Paws, said Isabelle Gullo, co-founder and executive director.
Once the survivor is safe and in a stable environment, pets and owners are reunited, Gullo said.
Partner agencies involved with logistics include Advanced Veterinary Specialists and ASAP, the Animal Shelter Assistance Program. Additional partner agencies are DAWG, the Dog Adoption Welfare Group, and the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society, which are in the process of merging.
Organizations involved in preventing and assisting victims of domestic violence say the Safe Haven program fills a critical need.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, abuse by an intimate partner often involves every member of the family, including pets that are harmed or killed by an abuser to control other family members.
Surveys show 85% of women entering domestic violence shelters reported their pets had been threatened, tortured or killed by their partners.
Jan Campbell, executive director of Domestic Violence Solutions, said she believes the partnership with C.A.R.E.4Paws will become an essential part of the shelter services the organization offers victims with pets.
“Knowing that their beloved pets are safely and confidentially housed helps to mitigate trauma suffered by domestic violence survivors and their families,” Campbell said.
Gullo said pets enrolled in Safe Haven will not only be sheltered but will also have access to veterinary care through C.A.R.E.4Paws’ mobile veterinary clinic as well as behavioral training, depending on a pet’s individual needs.
“Our program will provide a much-needed safety net for abuse victims with pets, and we hope that more victims will leave their abusers knowing that their pets will be well-protected and cared for,” Gullo said.