Leaving an abusive relationship is not an easy thing to do. For the victims of interpersonal violence who own animals, the decision to leave can be exceptionally difficult.

Pets are seen as part of the family, making it hard for many victims of abuse to leave the home knowing their pet is left behind. Not only can animals be abused, they can be used as a tool for the abuser to control and punish the victim.

Considerations for pet owners when developing a safety plan

A safety plan is a guide to leaving abuse. The plan includes what to take with you, where to go, and who to contact for help. When developing a safety plan, it is important to consider ways to protect any animals that may be involved.

Animal safekeeping programs

The victims of interpersonal violence and abuse may stay in a violent situation in order to protect their animals. Some victims risk their own lives by returning home in order to feed and care for their animals.

Animal safekeeping programs help promote the safety and wellbeing of individuals leaving a violent situation by providing short-term temporary care for their animals. Options for animal safekeeping may include:

Foster-based programs rely on volunteer caregivers to provide short-term care of pets while the owners are staying in domestic violence shelters or transition housing.

A limited number of domestic violence shelters and transition houses in Canada allow victims to bring their pets with them. (However, there are currently no Saskatchewan domestic violence shelters that accept pets.) Depending on the facility, pets may be cared for in the victim’s room, or in a kennel at the domestic violence shelter.

Domestic violence shelters may collaborate on a formal or informal basis with local animal shelters to provide temporary care for pets owned by the victims of interpersonal violence and abuse.

Pet safekeeping in Saskatchewan

A limited number of pet safekeeping programs are available in Saskatchewan. These include:

Learn more about safety planning and animal safekeeping programs at violencelink.ca.