Helping People & Pets Find Safety Together

Each year, millions of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations because they fear for the safety of their pet. Today, less than 10% of domestic violence shelters allow pets.

Victims of domestic violence should never have to make a choice between their own safety and the safety of their loved ones — including pets.

Banfield Foundation and professional football champion and pet advocate, Russell Wilson, are joining forces to help raise awareness of the fact that in homes where domestic violence occurs, pets are often victims too. In addition to his work on the Safer Together initiative, Wilson is a pet lover and advocate for domestic violence awareness and prevention.

In March 2019, the Banfield Foundation announced its commitment to raising awareness of the link between domestic violence and animal abuse, opens in a new tab by committing to invest $1 million over four years through its new Safer Together™ initiative. The program is designed to help create a world in which victims of domestic violence and their pets can find safety together.

With your support, the foundation and Russell Wilson aim to raise awareness and inspire action to help people and pets be Safer Together. Because when we help pets, we help people too.

Calling All Pet Advocates: Help People and Pets Find Safety Together

Pets and people share an undeniable bond. Pets are part of the family and fill us with love, comfort and joy.

Unfortunately, in homes where domestic violence occurs, pets are often victims of abuse. Up to 89 percent of pet-owning domestic violence victims report their abuser has threatened to harm, injure or even take the life of their pet. Nearly half of domestic violence victims report staying with an abuser because they fear for the safety of their pet. For domestic violence victims with pets, options for safe shelter are limited. Nationwide, only an estimated 6-10% of domestic violence shelters provide resources for both people and pets.

What’s more, when people and pets enter domestic violence programs, as many as 95% of those pets need some form of veterinary care, from routine vaccinations and wellness checks to assistance with behavioral issues and treatment for injuries or neglect.

As a pet advocate, there are many ways you can help. Start by researching available resources in your community. Don’t hesitate to reach out to domestic violence and animal welfare organizations directly to determine what help they need and how you can help further their mission. It is important to remember that it is often most effective to support existing efforts rather than creating a new program. You might also consider the following:

  • Get involved with a local domestic violence program or state coalition against domestic violence, volunteering as a pet foster, as a pet transport driver to take pets to and from veterinary appointments, and by helping organizations identify pet-friendly transitional housing opportunities.
  • Volunteer your time with a local or national domestic violence hotline or 24-hour crisis hotline.
  • Volunteer to help with special events or fundraising campaigns hosted by organizations.
  • Donate to domestic violence programs that offer resources to pets, and encourage others to do the same.
  • Help raise awareness of the need for people and pets to find safety together by sharing on social media, promoting information about the issue in your community, and within your own network.

In some cases, pet-owning victims of domestic violence may not be able to leave their current situation for a variety of reasons. If you have a loved one, friend, neighbor or coworker in a potentially dangerous situation and you don’t know how best to help, connect with experts at your local domestic violence shelter or state coalition against domestic violence, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for advice on how to best advocate and support those in need.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and is in need of immediate support, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. You can also explore a list of domestic violence shelters offering resources for pets at Sheltering Animals and Families Together, opens in a new tab.

Pet Advocates

Resources for Pet Advocates

Want to learn more about organizations offering services to people and pets and how to support them? Start here:

Additionally, consider reaching out and supporting local domestic violence and animal shelters that are already working with domestic violence victims and their pets.

How Veterinary Professionals Can Recognize and Report Cruelty, and Help Pets Impacted by Domestic Violence

Veterinary professionals play a crucial role in not only treating animals—companion, horses and livestock—but also in recognizing the signs of animal cruelty. Being aware of the connection between animal cruelty and domestic violence means veterinarians may be more likely to recognize and report abuse and, ultimately, provide a lifeline for animals impacted by cruelty and situations where there is co-occurring domestic violence.

Veterinarians should follow state and local guidelines when reporting animal cruelty, abuse or neglect. While reporting abuse against a pet isn’t yet mandatory on a national level, as a veterinarian, you may practice in a state where you are required to report any suspected abuse or cruelty and are supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), opens in a new tab and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), opens in a new tab. Beyond required reporting, if you suspect an animal has been abused or experienced extreme neglect, the most important thing you can do is to provide quality, compassionate care without judgment. Be sure to conduct a thorough examination and carefully evaluate and document any injuries, and follow up with your client as normal once the visit is over to ensure proper ongoing care.

There are other ways you can get involved in helping people and pets escape domestic violence:

  • Pursue continuing education courses that build capability in identifying and responding to suspected animal abuse. New continuing education courses rolling out this year at the 2019 AVMA Convention in Washington, D.C. include:
    • "Safer Together: Supporting Clients and Pets Impacted by Domestic Violence," led by Myra Rasnick, Executive Director of Ahimsa House
    • "Responding to Animal Abuse or Neglect in the Context of Suspected Domestic Violence" led by Maya Gupta, Ph.D., Senior Director of Strategy and Research for the ASPCA
    • “Preparing the Practice to Respond to Suspected Animal Abuse,” led by Phil Arkow, The National LINK Coalition
  • Provide voluntary veterinary services, discounts, boarding or medical assistance to pet foster care programs or domestic violence shelters that accept or assist pets. Help shelters that are considering adding pet kennel facilities with planning, design and program implementation.
  • Display literature in your clinic from local domestic violence organizations.
For Veterinarians

Resources for Veterinarians

Situations in which abuse is suspected can be difficult to navigate. These resources from the AVMA and the National Link Coalition provide insights, tips and legal obligations for veterinarians dealing with pets that may be experiencing violence at home.

For Nonprofit Organizations Looking to Provide Safe Shelter

Banfield Foundation’s Safer Together initiative offers multi-year grants to qualifying nonprofit organizations to support programs that help people and pets escape domestic violence together. Learn more, opens in a new tab, see if your organization qualifies, and apply for a grant, opens in a new tab.

The Safer Together grant program provides qualified nonprofit organizations assistance with:

  • Veterinary Care, including basic and preventive care, such as spay/neuter, urgent/emergency care, or funding for a certified veterinary technician or veterinarian on staff delivering care.
  • Pet Support Specialists responsible for care and cleaning of pets and pet area, foster family placement (if needed), intake of pets, arranging vet care and transport to vet/groomers and purchasing pet supplies.
  • Temporary Boarding for pets impacted by domestic violence. Temporary boarding applies to programs with and without on-site pet shelters to cover the cost of immediate shelter when their shelter is full while a foster home is being determined. For animal shelters housing pets at their facilities, this support includes medical and behavior support, in addition to pet food and supplies, monitoring by shelter staff, care and cleaning of kennels, grooming, etc.
  • Behavior Training for abused/traumatized pets needing additional help to heal.
Nonprofits Image

Resources for Nonprofits

Banfield Foundation’s Safer Together initiative is among several grant programs that support domestic violence shelters and animal shelters offering temporary boarding to pets that have fled abuse. From awareness and education to additional assistance, many organizations offer support to nonprofits that provide shelter services to people and pets experiencing domestic violence. While far from exhaustive, this list of resources highlights key organizations and offerings for nonprofits serving victims of domestic abuse: