Tag Archives: pet evacuation

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.



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.