There are a lot of good reasons why women’s refuges need to take in the family cat and dog when a woman seeks refuge at one of their shelters.
One women’s shelter is doing just that. It is based in Ottawa, Canada. It is called Interval House and it is the city’s oldest shelter for women and children.
The Interpersonal Abuse Research Group says that 75% of families with children have at least one pet that they consider part of the family.
We also know that people who engage in domestic violence have a tendency to use the killing, torturing and beating of pets as a way to threat and undermine their victims. This is also a way to ensure that their victim remains in the home and it helps to keep them silent.
A cat owner who is the victim of domestic violence will be reluctant to leave home to seek refuge at a woman’s shelter in part because they will have to leave their cat or dog behind.
The Executive Director of Interval House, Kia Rainbow, says that concern for their pet by women escaping violence prevents or delays them taking action in getting out of the home into a refuge. And once they get out they sometimes consider returning to protect their cat or dog.
Therefore, Kia says it is important to consider the entire family which means including the family cat or dog (and other animal companions).
“Supporting the family to escape together is essential”.
Interval House currently have a resident who says that her son misses their cat very much and they worry about their cat being in danger. She prays that her ex. isn’t taking out his anger on the cat.
Interval House is building a special housing area in the basement of the shelter to taking cats and dogs which includes a feeding and grooming room. There will also be a pet friendly living room. In addition there will be an outdoor enclosed area where cats and dogs can exercise and play.
It is probably fair to say that all women’s refuges should follow this example.
P.S. Sometimes men are the victims, it needs to be said, although it’s relatively unlikely.