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  • Writer's pictureInterval House of Ottawa

Animal housing project — Special edition

Updated: Apr 26, 2019

woman holding a dog

Sheryl and her daughter had to leave without their cat, Buddy. Her daughter misses her furry companion immensely. Sheryl said that the thought of leaving Buddy behind made her more reluctant to leave. "I hope and pray every day that [the abuser] is not taking his anger out on Buddy."

We know that when there is one form of violence in the home, everyone — including pets — are at risk. Each year, defenseless pets are victims of family violence. Not only are these pets in harm's way, but they may become helpless pawns in the power and control mechanisms abusers use to hurt their victims. Abusers use the killing, torturing and beating of pets — or the threat of such actions — as a weapon to ensure submission and silence from their victims.

girl holding a dog

When domestic violence victims with pets consider fleeing abusive homes and there is no safe place to house their pets, they have little choice but: (1) to remain in their homes and subject themselves, their children and their pets to continued violence, or (2) to flee and leave their pets behind. Because victims understand the extent of the harm that their abusers will likely inflict upon their pets, if left behind, many victims remain in violent relationships.

IHO will be the first shelter in Ottawa and surrounding areas to allow women, children and their pets into shelter. Not only will our on-site animal housing be protecting the pet, we will be supporting the emotional and psychological health of women and children. Pets are an integral part of the family unit, reducing loneliness, isolation, stress and anxiety. They provide unconditional support and love and increase people's ability to handle difficult situations and trauma.

We have partnered with Dr. Michelle Lem, Community Veterinary Outreach (CVO), to embark on this innovative and ground breaking project to support women and children with pets to leave abusive homes together.

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