EDMONTON – An animal rescue group is working to help more women and children escape violent relationships by providing their pets emergency shelter.
Edmonton police respond to nearly 8,000 domestic violence calls each year; many more incidents of domestic assault go unreported.
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Jill sought refuge in a women’s shelter while escaping an abusive relationship, but her dogs weren’t allowed.
“My emotions were up and down. I didn’t know if I was going to have my dogs, if they were going to be given away. I just bawled,” she explained.
Jill finally heard the words she had been waiting for: all three of her dogs were safe.
The Alberta SPCA took the three poodles in through its pet safekeeping program and moved them to a foster home.
“It might be the last relationship that’s a positive relationship. Pets give unconditional love, and so at a time when somebody is in crisis they want the comfort of their pets,” said the Alberta SPCA’s Tim Battle.
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In 2012, the organization conducted a study that produced alarming results.
Fifty-nine per cent of pet owners in emergency shelters had delayed leaving a violent relationship because of their pets.
More than one third said their animals had been threatened, and those threats were carried out 85 per cent of the time.
“It’s really a big factor, a big barrier to anyone trying to escape,” said Battle.
Foster families with the pet safekeeping program remain anonymous for safety reasons.
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When Jill moved into her permanent new home her three poodles followed.
“It was so amazing. They were so happy. They knew they were home,” said Battle.
The Alberta SPCA has helped 32 people and 56 pets escape domestic violence since it began its pet safekeeping program a year ago.