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About the Program
Shelby Humane is a leader on important issues facing the people of Central Alabama. Shelby SafePet provides services to 3 Alabama Counties: Shelby, Jefferson, and St. Clair. We launched Shelby SafePet in May 2018. This new program assists survivors of domestic violence by partnering with organizations that provide emergency shelter, and creating a network of veterinarians and volunteers to care for animals while survivors find the support they need. This will all be done a no cost to families until they are reunited with their pets.
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IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM
One in four women in America experiences domestic violence in her lifetime. Domestic violence knows no racial, ethnic, religious, or economic boundaries, but occurs throughout every sector of society. The 2018 Domestic Violence in Alabama Report finds that domestic violence was indicated in 4,207 violent offenses that year: 28 homicides, 265 rapes, 106 robberies and 3,808 aggravated assaults.
These statistics support the relationship between humans and animals at risk:
Most households have pets that are often considered part of the family. Many abusers use this bond to control, intimidate, and retaliate against their victims.
Up to 71% of victims entering domestic violence shelters report that their abusers threatened, injured, or killed the family pets. Research indicates that pet abuse may be a red flag for increased severity of domestic violence.
- Abusers often threaten to harm pets if a victim flees. Threats toward a pet have also been used as effective ways to silence children from reporting sexual abuse.
Nearly half of all victims of domestic violence entering shelters report that they delayed seeking safety from an abusive situation because of concerns about what would happen to their pets.
- According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence's directory of domestic violence programs, fewer than 1 in 8 domestic violence shelters is able to accommodate victims' pets.
Victims who leave pets behind have been known to leave domestic violence shelters and return to the residence in order to attempt to reclaim or care for the pets.
- Children who witness pet abuse may go on to engage in animal cruelty themselves. In addition, animal cruelty in childhood is a risk factor for interpersonal violence.
Alabama is one of only twelve states that require veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse to law enforcement agencies. The FBI made animal cruelty a Group A felony with its own category in 2014 to help identify pet abusers before their behavior worsens, and to provide support for prosecutions when necessary.
There are currently no DV shelter programs in Alabama that provide free veterinary care, food, boarding and pet deposits for victims of domestic violence. Many victims choose to stay in abusive homes when they learn they cannot take their pets with them when they flee. This unique program address both human safety and pet safety, and prevents victims from having to make the difficult choice of protecting themselves by entering shelter or protecting their pets by staying to care for them in an abusive home. We give families the comfort and confidence of knowing their pets are safe and healthy while addressing their own needs, and then reunite families with their pets.
Shelby Humane launched Shelby SafePet in May 2018. This new program is building a network of referring organizations in every 3 Alabama counties, followed by a network of veterinarians and volunteers to care for animals while domestic violence survivors find the support they need. This will all be done a no cost to families. The key services provided by Shelby SafePet include:
Emergency shelter for pets while their owners reach safety from domestic violence.
Veterinary care for pets with injuries and other health conditions due to the abuse, as well as preventive veterinary care and spay/neuter for animals staying in our emergency shelter program.
Forensic veterinary examinations to document abuse.
Pet food, pet supplies, payment of pet deposits in transitional housing, and other assistance victims may need in order to move forward with their lives together while in the Shelby SafePet program.
Folding crates and other pet supplies for domestic violence shelters, including shelters that have their own on-site housing for pets.
Shelby SafePet will actively support public education on domestic violence issues so that citizens can better identify and guide victims. These are some of the ways we will help:
Training and cross-training for a wide range of human services and animal protection agencies on the links between animal abuse and domestic violence.
Direct outreach to the public to raise awareness about this issue.
Participating in interdisciplinary conferences and meetings in order to raise awareness of animal abuse in domestic violence.
Confidentiality is critically important at every stage of assistance provided through Shelby SafePet. Our partner shelters through the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in particular the YWCA of Central Alabama and Safe House of Shelby County, have helped us develop the steps needed to protect owners and their pets. Shelby SafePet also trains volunteers on best practices for providing transportation and fostering/boarding. All volunteers working with Shelby SafePet will also be screened through a criminal background check. We also educate our veterinary and boarding partners on domestic violence, to help them better understand the client we assist.