Book review:Safe Havens for Pets: Guidelines for Programs Sheltering Pets for Women who are Battered

Escrito por Nuria Querol i Viñas.

One woman was about to return to an abusive situation because she feared for her pet bird. When she learned about a program that would provide shelter for the bird while she relocated, she was able to break free from her batterer. HSUS
Animal Sheltering
From the March-April 2000 Issue


Book Review
Safe Havens for Pets: Guidelines for Programs Sheltering Pets for Women who are Battered

by Frank Ascione, PhD

The success stories are too moving to ignore:

One woman was about to return to an abusive situation because she feared for her pet bird. When she learned about a program that would provide shelter for the bird while she relocated, she was able to break free from her batterer.

Animal protection organizations can obtain a free copy of the book by sending a self-adhesive, self-addressed mailing label to Frank Ascione, Department of Psychology, Utah State University, 2810 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84332-2810; 435-797-1464; Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo.
Another victim of domestic violence had two disabled children who were "in love"with their dogs. Because of a program that provided shelter for all of these loved ones, the family escaped the abuser.

A third woman left her abuser, taking her two daughters and three horses—one of whom had also been abused—with her. An animal shelter boarded the horses for four months, until the woman relocated and found a job at a ranch where she could keep her pets.

These tales are a testament to the effectiveness of programs providing refuge for pets of domestic violence victims. Gathered through interviews with 21 domestic violence agencies and 20 animal protection agencies from Alaska to Florida, the anecdotes may offer inspiration to other organizations interested in starting pet-refuge programs of their own.

That's one of the goals behind the book, Safe Havens for Pets: Guidelines for Programs Sheltering Pets for Women who are Battered, by Frank Ascione, PhD, a Utah State University psychology professor. In attempting to answer the many inquiries he has received over the years regarding implementation of pet-refuge programs, Ascione realized a need for a resource that would detail the collective wisdom of those programs already in existence.

A researcher who has long focused on human-animal relations, Ascione set out to produce Safe Havens for Pets with the help of funding from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. In addition to interviewing local agencies, he solicited the input of The HSUS, the American Humane Association, and national domestic violence prevention organizations in developing his guidelines.

In those guidelines, he writes that agencies need to carefully address issues such as safety, confidentiality, pet ownership rights, veterinary care, transportation, women's post-shelter housing, publicity, staff training, and ethical concerns.

Based on lengthy interviews that included 141 questions, Ascione developed 28 specific recommendations for implementing and monitoring the programs he refers to generally as "Safe Havens for Pets"or SHPs. Recommendations for animal shelters include the following:

  • Establish written procedures for a Safe Haven program and submit them for legal review.

  • Screen foster homes for Safe Haven pets by performing background checks and conducting home visits.

  • Do not reveal victims' identities to fosterers, and advise fosterers to care for animals in a discreet manner that avoids potential contact with batterers.

  • Have round-the-clock points of contact who can help women needing immediate shelter for their pets, or keep pet carriers at the women's shelter so that pets can be held temporarily overnight.

  • Designate someone who can pick up and transport pets if need be, and ensure the safety of that person by routinely requesting police "standby."

  • Discreetly provide victims with reports about pets' health and well-being, and set up mechanisms whereby the women's shelter and the animal shelter can share information about the victim's situation as it progresses.

  • Avoid problems regarding unclaimed pets by creating written agreements that establish clear policies for how long a pet can be held, while understanding victims' continuing need for assistance.

    Those are just some of the topics covered in the first 72 pages of Safe Havens for Pets, which also discusses time investments involved in offering Safe Haven programs, budget and "physical plant"issues, and evaluation of the effectiveness of services.

    A 222-page appendix provides copies of forms and guidelines used by Safe Haven programs around the country. Shelters interested in setting up their own programs will find samples of intake forms, release forms, foster-care guidelines, volunteer interview questions, publicity brochures, and other relevant materials.

    —NL


    Animal Sheltering, Mar-Apr 2000 Issue

    Copyright © 2000 The Humane Society of the United States. All rights reserved.