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Pet Advocates Ease Transition for Domestic Violence Survivors

Samantha and Roxy had been the best of friends since Roxy was little.  Everywhere Samantha went, Roxy went.  Everything Samantha did, Roxy did.  Samantha would confide in Roxy, cuddle with Roxy, and enjoy comfort and support from Roxy.  Roxy was Samantha’s 70lb black lab whom she had raised since she was a puppy.  Roxy was 6 years old when Samantha moved in with her boyfriend, Rick.  It didn’t take long for the abuse to start and often it was directed toward Roxy.  When Samantha was ready to leave the relationship, she called the crisis line to inquire about emergency shelter.  She was informed that she could not have Roxy at the shelter.  Samantha hung up the phone and cried.  She was now faced with the decision to leave Roxy behind, risking more harm or even death to Roxy, or to stay in the relationship to be with Roxy and protect her from the abuse.

Imagine being faced with this decision.  Imagine having to leave your best friend behind.  Roxy had been Samantha’s comfort and support her entire life and especially during the abusive relationship.  Unfortunately, pets are often used as pawns in abusive relationships.  Abusing the survivor’s pet is another way for the abuser to manipulate or threaten the survivor and gain power and control.  Survivors often delay leaving an abusive relationship if they cannot take their pet with them, or find a safe place to keep their pet.

This is why the YWCA created the Pet Advocate program.  The Pet Advocate program provides foster homes for pets of survivors staying at our domestic violence shelter.  By providing these foster homes, we can remove one more barrier for people looking to leave an abusive relationship and offer the survivor peace of mind, knowing that their pet is safe.  Pets offer a special type of love and comfort to their owners, and it is our goal to help survivors keep their pets.

Pet Advocates are volunteers who have gone through training to learn about the complex relationship of pets and domestic violence,  and the unique characteristics of caring for pets who may have been abused.  These amazing volunteers open their homes and hearts up to these pets and love them as if they were their own.  The YWCA partners with the Humane Society of Western Montana, who provides food, vaccinations, and their expertise on animal behavior.     The YWCA is always in need of more volunteers to become Pet Advocates.  The only requirement to become a Pet Advocate is the ability to foster pets and offer love.  Our next Pet Advocate training will take place on Thursday, March 20, 2014, 6:00PM – 8:00PM.  If you are interested in attending the training, or learning more about the Pet Advocate program, please contact the Pet Advocate Coordinator, Lisa J. Bruce, at (406) 543-6691 or [email protected]

Posted by Lisa Bruce, Gateway Program Manager