Noozhawk published on September 16, 2022 11:25 am

Every 10 seconds, an animal is abused, but most cruelty cases go unnoticed and unpunished because they are not reported, and the animals continue to suffer. What’s more, there is a proven link between animal cruelty and family violence. An animal is usually the abuser’s first victim.

To create awareness around the prevalence of animal cruelty and domestic violence, and to support pet families exposed to abuse, C.A.R.E.4Paws, Domestic Violence Solutions for Santa Barbara County (DVS), and Elings Park invite the community to Walk Against Abuse, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 at Elings Park in Santa Barbara.

The inaugural event benefits 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 started 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 of their pets.

Walk Against Abuse includes a dog walk through Elings Park at noon, 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.

Community members and local businesses also 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,” said Isabelle Gullo, C.A.R.E.4Paws’ cofounder and executive director, who said many survivors stay on average two years longer in an abusive relationship if there is an animal involved.

“Safe Haven gives survivors a chance to escape their abusive partners by providing a refuge for family pets,” she said. “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 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,” said Ken Oplinger, DVS interim executive director. “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.”

For more about the event and ticket/sponsor options, visit the Walk Against Abuse event website. For more 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.