Helping Families And Pets Find Safety During Domestic Violence Awareness Month


October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), and an opportunity to raise awareness and engage others in conversations that are difficult and all too often silenced. For those of us at RedRover, this means talking about both human and animal victims/survivors of domestic violence (DV).

Research shows that 71 percent of survivors report that their family pets were abused as part of the cycle of violence experienced at home. With few DV shelters offering pet-friendly housing options, this leads to at least 48 percent of survivors delaying leaving their abusive situations out of concern for their pets, and we suspect the actual percentage could be higher. 

So, what do pet abuse and domestic violence look like? We’ve taken a look at the research to provide these eight signs that may indicate domestic violence that involves pets.

Has your partner ever:

  1. Threatened to get rid of your pet?
  2. Purposely intimidated or scared your pet?
  3. Smacked or hit your pet?
  4. Thrown an object at your pet?
  5. Threatened to harm your pet?
  6. Chased your pet?
  7. Refused to feed or provide vet care for your pet?
  8. Kicked your pet?

If you have experienced any of these or are afraid to leave an abusive situation because of concern for your pets, visit RedRover’s website. is a resource that domestic violence survivors with pets can use when they need to leave an abusive environment, and also provides tools and tips for domestic violence shelter staff. 

In the following video, Shari, a domestic violence survivor, speaks candidly about how important it was to have a place to take her dogs in order for her to leave her abuser. RedRover helped her with a SafeEscape grant so that her dogs could stay at a boarding facility while she stayed in a DV shelter. Shari says, “RedRover funded my dogs to be in boarding for two months so that I could go to the WEAVE Safe House and get the help that I needed, the counseling I needed, and the support. My dogs are the reason that I am doing anything; they are my children. You can feel really discouraged when you don’t feel like you have a lot of support but there’s wonderful people out there like RedRover and the people that give to them, and WEAVE too. They’re working around the clock, all the time.”

We continue to look for innovative ways to reach domestic violence survivors and connect them to these tools to escape abuse. Because research has shown that salon professionals are the people most likely to be told about abusive relationships, California and Illinois have passed laws requiring beauty school students to complete a domestic violence awareness course. Now RedRover offers a wallet-sized card that salon professionals can give to their clients when they suspect a pet is being used as a manipulative tool or when a client may delay leaving an abuser because of their pets. The card directs people to the SafePlaceforPets website.

Salon professionals can give this card to their clients so that they can use RedRover’s resources to find safety together with their pets.

Our goal is for these wallet cards to be distributed to salon professionals nationwide, and this is where you come in. If you have a good relationship with your hairdresser, you can help us by talking to them about this issue. Complete the order form, and we’ll send you a pack of wallet cards to give to your hairdresser to distribute at their salon. We’ll also provide a handy informational sheet with some suggested talking points.

Since 2007, RedRover has awarded 606 Safe Escape grants to help 1,080 people with 23,323 total nights of boarding for their pets. Since the inception of the Safe Housing program in 2012, 73 grants have been awarded to domestic violence shelters for a total of $477,563.77. In the United States there are currently 172 DV shelters that house pets, of which RedRover helped to fund 61. A representative from one of these shelters, Haven Women’s Center of Stanislaus, California, said, “I do know that the ability to accept pets into the shelter has saved many client’s lives. It is a huge barrier in obtaining safe shelter and RedRover has made it possible for clients to seek safety and begin new chapters.”

These DV shelters are doing the hard but important work of helping both people and pets escape domestic violence together. With more DV shelters offering pet-friendly options, from on-site housing to fostering programs, the tides are changing. But there is more work to do. It takes a community, so join us this October and help us spread the message that #PetsAreFamily.

Featured image: a child hugs a dog. Image credit Ben Grey, CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Founded in 1987, the mission of RedRover is to bring animals out of crisis and strengthen the bond between people and animals through emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, financial assistance and education. RedRover accomplishes its mission by engaging volunteers and supporters, collaborating with others and maximizing the use of online technology. Click to see author's profile.

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