Dr. Sharon Fooshee Grace, a clinical professor in Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, has a passion to protect the vulnerable. She works with a domestic violence shelter to provide care for victims' pets, many of which may also need protection and medical care.
The Link to help them overcome their fears about involvement. “Veterinarians may be reluctant to get involved in these potentially volatile cases. Most of them have had very little training in animal cruelty issues. They may not want to risk their reputations or they have fears for their own safety. Another consideration is the cost of helping, both financially and emotionally,” Grace said.“The ripple effect of our little program will, we hope, be powerful and change many lives,” she added. Today’s students, she said, “get it.”Grace and women’s shelter director Leslie Payne crafted a Memorandum of Understanding through which the vet school provides cage space for the women’s pets.
MSU representatives pick up the pets, usually in less than a day, and transport them to the animal holding area.Payne said the shelter now routinely screens for the presence and welfare of pets in the home when calls come in. Many victims are relieved to find there is a safe place for their pets, she said.“Children, often very young children, witness violent relationships between their parents and sometimes their pets. I’ve encountered an 8-year-old boy whose abusive dad had taken him to cockfights, and I’ve talked to children whose parents killed puppies in front of them,” said Payne. “Unfortunately, we find that children who grow up in these environments often become abusive themselves.