Category Archives: X issues & dialogs

Helping humans and animals in domestic violence situations.

This blog’s authors stand upon the premise that a direct link has been established between animal abuse and domestic violence. It has been established through credible research.

We also stand upon the premise that aiding animals in domestic violence situations is important, and it is an activity that needs more attention as a community service activity. More families are likely to seek safety if they know that their pets will be safe too.

We recognize that some women jeopardize themselves by remaining in dangerous situations when they cannot find safety for their animals. We also recognize that some women will prolong their own exposure to violence, and also prolong their children’s exposure to violence, for a lot of reasons. One of these reasons, sometimes, is worry about the welfare of their animals.

Although we recognize this circumstance, and although we see it as a reason to promote more awareness for the care of pets in domestic violence situations, we do not advocate that anyone put the welfare of humans at risk FOR ANY REASON. Even for the welfare of the pets.

Any child in danger must be brought to safety IMMEDIATELY. If your child is in danger, or any child that you know is in danger, PLEASE take proper action to secure the child’s safety, even if there are animals at risk who cannot be rescued immediately.

It is an adult’s choice about his/her own safety, however, we do not recommend that you risk your own safety for the safety of a pet. When it comes to a child, however, THE CHILD’S WELFARE MUST COME FIRST.

Recently, I was asked to aid in an effort to find homes for two dogs who were being displaced because of domestic violence. I had little information about the situation. All I knew was that a woman and her 9 year old daughter were leaving their home where there was an abusive man, and they were asking for assistance in finding homes for their dogs. They were afraid that the dogs would be abused by the man in their absence. Statistics about abusers also abusing pets suggest that their worry was legitimate.

I did not know if the woman was waiting to secure herself and her daughter until the pets were safe. My queries to the person who asked for my help suggested that she and the daughter were being aided by a community service organization in their area.  I have to accept that this is true, because even if it is not, there is little that I can do. I was only asked to help the animals who were beloved by this family.

My posting about the situation on Facebook prompted some comments about the welfare of the woman and child. By seeking help for the animals, was I condoning the possibility that this woman was waiting to secure herself and her child until the animals were safe?

That certainly was not my intent. I simply was putting forward the request for help for the animals. I was not asked to help the family in any other capacity. My hope is that the woman was responsible in finding safety for herself and the child regardless of the pets’ situation.

Domestic violence is a very insidious issue. As a counselor for 19 years, I faced many situations where I knew people were making unwise choices in regards to violence in their homes, but there was little I could do to intervene unless there was immediate danger. We simply cannot fix other people’s lives for them. We can only offer them opportunities to get out of bad situations, educate them about those opportunities, and offer support.

That is why this blog and the entire Okey’s Promise initiative promotes awareness about the connections between animal abuse and domestic violence and child abuse. By being more aware of the connections, we are more able to recognize the dangers to both humans and animals, and we are more able to develop services that can help both out of bad situations.

Because everyone deserves safety and peace of mind. And communities that care about animals are communities that care about people.



Meet Vicki Cook, New Okey’s Promise Contributor

BZTAT Vicki Cook BlogPaws April 2010
BZTAT and Vicki Cook at the first BlogPaws Conference in Columbus, OH April 2010

My good friend Vicki Cook has been a big supporter of Okey’s Promise from the very beginning, and she continues to send me links to stories with relevant content to the project’s mission. Vicki is a great writer, is involved in animal welfare initiatives, and has some professional experience working in social service organizations. So I decided to ask her to be a contributor to this blog.

Vicki was a bit surprised that I asked her, claiming that she has no expertise for the topic. In my mind, though, this is a topic that we all need to know about, and it takes no expertise to share what is general knowledge. It simply takes a passion for animals and a passion for people who are vulnerable in our world. Vicki certainly has that.

I asked Vicki to write an introduction for us.  Here it is. I look forward to more great posts from her in the future.

From Vicki Cook, New Okey’s Promise Contributor

I originally met BZTAT on Twitter about two years ago when we connected through a group of animal lovers, who got together on a regular basis to have fun and raise money for animal shelters and rescue groups all around the world.

Over time our friendship moved offline and into the real world when I visited her at her studio in Canton, Ohio.  BZTAT is actively involved in the growing arts community in downtown Canton, and I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – just a few hours away.  I took my teenaged daughter there for a weekend to meet a ‘real live’ artist and tour of the art galleries.

The following year we both attended three pet blogging conferences – BlogPaws 2010 in Columbus, Ohio; BarkWorld Expo in Atlanta, Georgia; and BlogPaws West in Denver, Colorado.  In addition to writing Okey’s Promise, BZTAT has her own blog Bztat Studios and helps her spokescat Brewskie Butt with his blog Just Meowin’.  I also have a pet blog called Bunny’s Blog, which is inspired by my rabbit and twitter alter ego Bunny Jean Cook and focuses on animal shelters, rescue groups, and other animal-related causes.

Most recently, BZTAT and I spent a weekend together in Cleveland, Ohio at the headquarters of Embrace Pet Insurance, home of the newest BZTAT Studios gallery.  BZTAT volunteered to do a 24-hour paint-a-thon in support of the 24-hour blog-a-thon that our friend Dr. V at PawCurious and several other pet bloggers were doing that weekend.

During the paint-a-thon BZTAT and I had a conversation about the connection between animal cruelty, child abuse, and domestic violence. BZTAT commented about an article in her local paper, which addressed issues at the local animal shelter and implied that caring for abused animals is not as important as caring for abused children.

Now in addition to being a talented artist, BZTAT is also a licensed clinical therapist who works with women and children in crisis. She noted that many times when animal abuse occurs, there is a likelihood of child abuse and/or domestic violence. She also stated that the child welfare movement actually grew out of the animal welfare movement.

Shortly after this, BZTAT set up a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter to help underwrite Okey’s Promise, a public art project to increase awareness about the connection between animal cruelty, child abuse, and domestic violence, and she established this blog to further address those issues.

I also feel very strongly about these issues, and that is why I am so honored to be asked to contribute to this blog – especially because this month is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month.

Every April, the ASPCA urges their supporters across the country to Go Orange for Animals in honor of signing their charter in 1866. This year is their 145th anniversary, and you can help support the ASPCA’s efforts by learning how to recognize and report animal cruelty.  For more information on the connection between animal cruelty and domestic violence, please click here.

Pets and Disasters – Do you have a plan if a disaster happens in your community?

An astounding number of disasters, some natural and some man made, have occurred recently around the globe. Earthquakes, tsunamis, blizzards and other snow events, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, gas leaks leading to home and neighborhood explosions, radiation exposures, warfare, etc. You name it – it has happened.

These disasters have arisen suddenly, and have affected areas not usually accustomed to anticipating danger.

Other smaller scale and more personal disasters have happened much more frequently, yet get less notice – house fires, domestic violence, home foreclosures and evictions, etc.

Whether it is a community disaster or a more personal and individualized one, disasters affect our pets as much as they do ourselves. Why should we care?

Obviously, in a disaster, human safety is paramount and the first priority of our safety forces. But our animals bring great value to our lives when things are going well. It stands to reason that their welfare would be a priority for us in a disaster too. We want those who bring us comfort and are a part of our daily lives to be safe every bit as much as we want ourselves to be safe.

Stories such as this one about a woman who risked her own safety to save her pets from fire are not uncommon.

Whether or not you think it makes sense, there are people who consider their pets family members and will risk their lives to rescue them from danger. I am one of them. We need to recognize that and consider pet safety as a part of community disaster planning.

But we aren’t there yet. Pet owners need to think ahead and do some disaster preparedness in advance to minimize the risks if a dangerous situation does happen.

Do you have a disaster plan for your family and pets?

I confess that I do not. I do, however, lose sleep sometimes, wondering how I would save all 5 of my cats if something bad were to happen.

The ASPCA has some great disaster preparedness suggestions. I am in the process of implementing some of them. I hope you will check them out and do the same.

What ideas and concerns do you have about caring for your pets in a disaster? Do you have suggestions for how to herd 5 cats in the event of a dangerous event requiring evacuation? What would you do for your pet if you needed to evacuate? I am interested in hearing your thoughts. Please leave comments.



Pet Evacuation in Emergencies

I remember a particularly harsh winter from my youth that was not unlike the one many of us in the United States have experienced this year. Growing up in rural Liberty, MO, snowstorms were not unusual, but the ice storm that I recall from “that” year was an unusually rough one. We were without heat and power for 5 days. My father rented a kerosene heater that you could only fire up once an hour. I am sure that it would not have met today’s safety standards.

Pyewacket, our cat, was miserable, as he had to be corralled those 5 days in the one room that served as our shelter with a doberman and 2 dachshunds. But he had his people with him.

I don’t know if anyone offered our family shelter from the cold – this was 40 years ago – but I doubt we would have gone to a shelter if it was available. We wouldn’t have left Pyewacket, Dober, Snoopy and Baron behind.

Fast forward to today.

Canton, OH, the county seat of Stark County, is now my home, and the city is in its second day of recovery from the Ice Storm of 2011. Canton’s mayor declared a state of emergency in the early morning hours while the storm had us in its grasp. By later in the morning, over 55,000 electric customers were without power. Tree limbs were down all over the city, dragging power lines with them.

The Canton Repository bragged about Canton and Stark County’s emergency response. Except for one thing. Two shelters were set up for people to come out of the cold and unsafe conditions, but if you had pets, too bad.

The emergency shelter doesn’t take pets unless it is a certified medical assist dog, said Melissa Seibert, shelter manager and medical supervisor at the civic center. She suggested people call their veterinarian or another boarding facility to see if they will take pets in an emergency. – Canton Repository, 2/2/11

I suspect that Canton is not unlike most cities. Despite the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, most communities still fail to include pets in their disaster and evacuation preparedness planning. When the crisis hits, people with pets are faced with either leaving their pets behind to face dangerous conditions, or risk their own lives to ensure their pets’ safety. If you read the article mentioned above, you will see that a woman in Canton chose the latter, seeking shelter for her cat that was not readily available.

I ask our intrepid shelter manager/medical supervisor: How are people supposed to call around for pet shelter when they have no power and phone lines are down too? Are they supposed to flip through the yellow pages by candlelight, making calls on their cell phone, when the battery is dying because there is no power source to recharge it?

Why haven’t our disaster preparedness teams made contingency plans in advance for pet evacuation in emergencies? Isn’t that what the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS Act) compelled them to do?

I am disappointed in my community. Luckily, we are rebounding from this “disaster” pretty rapidly, but what if a more widespread and devastating crisis occurs?

Some may say that animals are not as important as human beings when a true disaster occurs. I won’t debate that issue. I will say, however, that, regardless of your belief about the importance of animals, many people consider their pets family. An emergency is no time to try to convince them otherwise. They will risk their own lives to ensure their pets’ well being.

By failing to care for animals, we put humans at risk.

It is the same problem for families caught up in a perpetual cycle of crisis sparked by domestic violence. Many families remain in dangerous situations because care for their animals is not available.

Whether you are an animal advocate or not, surely you must see the necessity of caring for animals in order to care for the people who love them when they are faced with dangerous circumstances. We can, and we must, do better.

If not for our creatures, for ourselves.