Many people may not be aware that domestic violence and animal abuse are connected. People may stay in dangerous and traumatic situations in fear of leaving their pets behind to an abusive spouse or partner. The Fairfax County Animal Shelter is launching an expansion of the "Pet Haven" program offering emergency housing, food, supplies and care for pets in domestic violence situations.
The Animal Shelter is a partner, along with the Police Department’s Victims Services Unit and the County’s Domestic Violence Network, in the new program. Shelter Director Tawny Hammond said, "It’s very important that people in domestic violence situations are aware of options for their pets. Many people stay in very bad situations at home because they do not want to leave their pets behind. This program offers new options and we want to spread the word about this very important program."
Statistically, 71 percent of pet-owning victims entering shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets and 68 percent of victims reported past violence towards their animals.
Domestic violence continues to be a serious concern in Fairfax County. In its 2012 Annual Report, the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team reported that more than half (57 percent) of all Fairfax County’s homicides were domestic violence-related. Overall, only 38 percent of the victims sought law enforcement intervention, only one sought a protective order and none sought domestic violence advocacy services. Shelter Communications & Outreach Director Kristen Auerbach encourages resident to help spread the word about the new program and stressed it’s importance to the community, "We are hoping victims in such difficult situations will hear about our services for their beloved pets and that this will no longer be a hurdle in helping them seek services they need. We hope our accessibility will help. In the past, victims had to seek help through a caseworker; now they may call us directly at the shelter."
Victims seeking a safe place for their pets should contact the Animal Shelter at FCPDPetResources@fairfaxcounty.gov or call 703-324-0208. For more information and available resources, contact the 24-hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline at 703-360-7273.