Did you know animals can be victims of domestic and intimate partner violence? Abusers often harm—or threaten to harm—the family pet to demonstrate control over the family. Nearly 50 percent of domestic violence victims have delayed leaving their abuser because they fear what might happen to their pets if they have to leave them behind.
The Center for Women and Families has a partnership with the Kentucky Humane Society (KHS) to provide pet care so that pet owners who want to flee domestic and intimate partner violence in their home can bring their furry family members with them. Upon the pet’s arrival at The Center, advocates assist the pet’s owner in getting their dog or cat settled into our Safe Haven Pet Center, which has special spaces designed to temporarily house dogs and cats in separate quarters. The advocates then reach out to our partners at KHS.
Through their Safe Haven program, KHS has special foster families that provide a safe temporary home for the pet while the pet’s owner is receiving services in The Center’s shelter. When the pet’s owner leaves the shelter, they can be reunited with their pet, or after a period of three months can put them up for adoption with KHS.
Not only does the Safe Haven program provide comfort to pet owners who know their pet will be lovingly cared for while they seek The Center’s services, but also it can be a rewarding opportunity for the families who foster the pets.
We recently caught up with Megan, who fostered Opie though the Safe Haven Program, to ask her about the foster experience.
Why did you decide to foster a Safe Haven pet?
I decided to foster a safe haven pet quite accidentally! I had lost my cat Cheese, who was the absolute love of my life, just a few weeks prior. I was walking down the kennels at work after doing a media segment when I spotted a skinny little dog dancing and barking at me. Working for the Kentucky Humane Society (KHS), this is a pretty common occurrence, but something in the dog’s eyes made me stop and visit him. I read his cage card and discovered his name was Opie, he was 13 years old and he was waiting for a safe haven foster home. I immediately called my partner and asked him if I could bring the dog home. I had been crying nonstop since my cat passed away and my partner insisted that Opie come home because it was the happiest I’d sounded in a long time.
How was the foster experience?
I absolutely LOVED fostering Opie. It was so fun to see all the tricks he knew and how he immediately fit in with my little family. He was such a good dog that it caught me off guard! I should point out that at the shelter I’m known for bringing the “naughty” dogs home so having a good boy in the house was a magical change. Opie also had several tumors and really bad dental disease when he arrived at KHS. After getting permission from his family, we were able to operate on him to remove the growths and remove the badly infected teeth. He ended up needing a follow up surgery after this surgery and I was so happy I could nurse him back to health.
What was the most rewarding part of fostering for you?
The most rewarding part of fostering Opie was getting to see the change in his demeanor. In the shelter, he was extremely stressed out and had the saddest eyes I’d ever seen. Seeing him go from this barking madman to this polite, intelligent gentleman was incredible. To know I was the one who made that difference for him was also incredible.
What was the most challenging part?
The most challenging part of fostering was when it became closer to his 90 day return period. In the safe haven program, owners have up to 90 days to reclaim their animals and if they are not able to, KHS puts them up for adoption. I grew more and more anxious closing in on this period because I knew our time together may be coming to an end. Normally I have no problem at all saying goodbye to a foster pet but Opie was extremely special to me and I knew letting him go was going to be my greatest challenge yet. Opie’s family came to the conclusion they were unable to reclaim him. While I was extremely sad for them, I couldn’t have been any happier for my family. We immediately adopted Opie and our house feels like home again.
Would you foster for Safe Haven again?
I would! At this moment, my home is full but I would love to foster another safe haven in the future. I always recommend the Safe Haven program to first time foster parents as it is easier giving up a pet when you know their true family is waiting for them. I also am such a huge supporter of The Center for Women and Families that I would do anything to support their mission.
Victims of domestic and intimate partner violence should not have to choose between fleeing an abusive situation or keeping their pet safe. Thanks to the Safe Haven program and The Center’s partnership with KHS, victims can flee with their pet and be assured they’ll both have safe shelter. With wonderful foster families like Megan, caring advocates, and a generous community, pet owners—and their furry loved ones—get the support and care they need to escape the violence.
You can make a donation to help support The Center here.
If you are interested in fostering pets you can learn more at the KHS website.