The Abuse Problem
for families and their pets
- One out of every four women experiences domestic violence during their lifetime. Women, children (and their pets) should not be subjected to a life of fear and abuse.
- The family pet often plays a central role in providing comfort, unconditional love and a sense of normalcy for traumatized families. Many abusers terrorize their victims by torturing or killing a beloved pet.
- Two thirds of domestic violence victims do not seek help or shelter for fear that their much-loved pet will be mutilated or killed.
- Over 1 million pets of domestic violence victims and sexual assault victims are killed each year by the abusers and in the most horrific ways.
- Most domestic violence shelters do not accept pets.
Nancy is her name and she has
a 5-year old son, Sammy,
and a little dog named Susie.
When I got home from work, Sammy was in the living room playing with his best friend, our dog Susie. Once again, Russ, my husband, had left Sammy home alone and unsupervised. Thankful for some quite time, Sammy and I had dinner and then took Susie for a long walk around the block. Around nine, we both went to bed.
I woke up when I hit the bedroom floor - - crying and in excruciating pain. Russ was home and he dropkicked me out of bed. Standing over me, he kept kicking me while I tried to crawl under the bed - - I kept begging him to stop. I was praying that Sammy, asleep in his downstairs bedroom with Susie, would not wake up. I lived in fear that Sammy would come into the bedroom on one of our “bad” nights and that Russ would turn his fury on him.
Finally, Russ passed out and started to snore. I crawled out from under the bed; I could hardly breathe from the pain. I washed the blood off my face and pulled on some sweats from the laundry hamper. Was Sammy all right? I crept down the stairs to his room - - he sat huddled in the corner with his arms wrapped around Susie shaking and crying. That was when I decided that this was the last time - - my baby should not have to grow up living in fear!
Quickly I helped him put on a sweater and some pants and told him to be very very quite – we were going on a trip. As I closed his bedroom door Susie wined and Sammy went back to get her. I tried to explain that we couldn’t take her with us but he just sobbed and clung to her. I reached down, picked them both up, and slipped out the door. Months ago, I had hidden spare car keys under a rock in the fount yard in case things ever got too bad. The three of use made our escape into the night.
We spent a cold and cramped night in a parking lot behind a church downtown. In the morning, I had just enough cash for breakfast at McDonalds. Now what? Russ would kill me if he found us. I was afraid to go to work or take Sammy to the babysitter.
A Good Samaritan gave me the phone number for the local domestic violence shelter. They told me to come over right away. They even asked if I had a pet and told me to bring Susie with me – she couldn’t live with us but they would arrange for her care. I dreaded trying to separate Sammy from Susie, he has always shared his hopes, dreams and fears with her - - another loss in his young life could be devastating.
The staff was very kind; they helped Sammy understand that we were going to be safe and that Susie would be in a safe place too. He finally stopped crying once he understood that he would get Susie back once we got our lives back on track.
The Domestic Violence Pet Shelter picked Susie up that very morning ~ she was very nervous, afraid of loud noises and a little nippy. The response team took her directly to a vet where she got all her shots and was treated for an ear infection. The groomer shaved her matted hair and gave her a bath. At the kennel, she got a new bed and several toys.
Susie had lived in very violent environment; she was terrified of loud noises and men. Then Susie lost both her home and her human. She was so frightened that she stood at the back of her kennel and growled when anyone came near. The Pet Shelter is both quite and calm. To help Susie adapt the staff started a socialization program to get her comfortable with her surroundings. After several days of positive reinforcement and lots of love, Susie started to come to the front of the kennel for treats, then she wagged her tail, and by the second week, she started to play with her toys. Susie received loving shelter care for 87 day while her family worked on rebuilding their lives.
Getting to a safe refuge gave Nancy the time and safe space she needed to consider all her options and choose how to move forward. While Nancy was healing from her physical injuries, both she and Sammy participated in counseling. In addition, she the opportunity to develop independent living skills. The shelter provided employment and vocational training opportunities, assistance with financial planning, budgeting and affordable housing. They also referred her to an attorney to help her with the legal issues. Eighty-seven days later Nancy and Sammy were on their way to starting a new life.
Every day Sammy asked about Susie. Was she ok? What was she doing? Did she miss him? When could he go see her? Susie has played a major role in his childhood - - providing him with unconditional love and outlet for sharing his feelings.
Eighty- seven days after they escaped into the night Nancy and Sammy moved into their new apartment. The next day Nancy told Sammy that they had to go back to the shelter to finish some paperwork. When they got there, they were asked to wait in one of the offices. Minutes later, the door opened and Susie bounded into the room. Both Nancy and the shelter coordinator had tears in their eyes - - this was such a happy reunion!
Sammy’s face lit up, he fell to his knees and threw his arms around her and buried his head in her neck. Susie was beside herself with excitement - - full of squirms and making little whinny sounds in the back of her throat. Nancy cried when she heard Sammy whisper, “I’ve missed you so much Susie but now we have a new place to live - - wait till you see it! When we get home I have so much to tell you . . .”
Domestic Violence Pet Haven enables families to seek a safe place and concentrate on developing new life skills - - knowing that their pet is receiving exceptional care and will be reunited with them once they have rebuilt their lives. This story is pure fiction based on a compilation of domestic violence cases - - both the names and the circumstances are invented.