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KHS to start ‘safe haven’ program for pets and victims of abuse

LIHU‘E — Worrying about a place for a beloved pet can be just an added layer of stress for somebody trying to flee a domestic violence or abusive household situation.

With the help of a $20,000 RedRover Safe Housing grant, the Kaua‘i Humane Society has been able to purchase a dedicated space to house pets belonging to victims in unsafe conditions.

KHS Executive Director Nicole Schafer Crane said the money will also be used for “safe havens” which include living-room-like sheds in a discrete location that victims will be able to visit to spend quality time with their pets.

“There’s really no other place for victims of domestic violence to house their animals anywhere,” Schafer Crane said. “Studies have shown that domestic violence won’t tend to leave bad situations if their pets can’t come along with them, and a lot of times their pets are sort of threatened to keep them in these bad situations. We just wanted to see if there’s any way we could do our part to sort of lessen that.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 52% of victims in shelters must leave their pets with abusers. And according to another study, up to 71% of pet-owning victims entering domestic violence shelters have reported that their abuser had injured, killed or threatened the pet as an act of revenge or psychological control.

“Sadly, it is true that pets may be hurt or abused by a batterer to maintain more control over the victim,” YWCA Executive Director Renae Hamilton-Cambeilh said. “Pet abuse can also be a red flag as a type of behavior leading up to or as a part of ongoing domestic violence.”

Hamilton-Cambeilh said this is just one of the “many barriers” on the mind of somebody in an unsafe situation.

“The safety of their beloved pets is something victims think about,” Hamilton-Cambeilh said. “Our community is fortunate that DV victims now have a safe and caring place for their pets until it’s safe for them to return.”

KHS already has an emergency boarding space, but this new space will allow about five dogs and five cats, depending on size. Like the emergency boarding program that can be used by people experiencing houselessness or by those in the middle of a housing transition, there is flexibility to work with the shelter on how long their animal can be housed.

“What we’re saying is that as long as you stay in contact with us and give us updates on your progress, we will work with you,” Schafer Crane said.

KHS was one of 13 shelters that received a RedRover grant nationwide. Since 2012, the group has given out 151 grants totaling more than $1.7 million, which RedRover said equates to “more than 387,200 safe nights for pets.”

The containers for the shelter space is on its way, Schafer Crane said, and the program should be available by mid-to-late fall of this year.

“You can use them to bond with your animal, just get away and be able to spend time with them in a safe and secure location,” Schafer Crane said.
Source: The Garden Island

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