It is already difficult to get out of a situation of domestic abuse, but this difficulty is exacerbated when people hesitate to seek alternative living arrangements for fear of the thought of leaving their beloved pets behind.

That’s why YWCA Northeast Kansas and Hill’s Pet Nutrition are working together to coordinate a new animal care program for families in the emergency shelters of the YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment.

“It is thanks to the generosity of Hill’s Pet Nutrition that we can provide victims / survivors and their pets with a safe and life-saving alternative,” said Kathleen Marker, CEO of YWCA. “This care program provides victims / survivors with added security during an especially difficult time, as they can rest assured that their pets are being looked after in loving, safe homes and can focus on getting the help and support they need.”

Becca Spielman, program director at the center, said leaving an animal in the hands of an offender is a huge barrier for many of the survivors the center serves. Research shows that 71% of domestic violence victims report that their pets are being threatened, injured or even killed by their abusive partners.

“As the animals do not have a safe place, this can act as a critical barrier,” said Spielman. “We see instead that an individual often chooses to stay in the relationship longer, which means that there is still the possibility of further trauma.

“Sometimes humans can take in their animals, but that can be quite traumatic in itself,” Spielman added. “Animals are part of their families, but some people have to do this to ensure their own safety and that of their pets.”

With the launch of the foster animal program, families at the center’s animal shelters can rest assured that their pets will be temporarily cared for. According to Spielman, most stays in the center’s emergency shelters typically last between a few hours and 60 days.

The program, which is still in its early stages, will eventually require volunteers to promote the pets, and training will be a required part of the volunteering process. According to Spielman, the companies are specifically looking for people with a passion for caring for animals and the ability to recognize and respond to the trauma these pets may have previously suffered themselves.

Hill’s Pet Nutrition also helps by donating food, supplies, and other financial aid.

Those who want to volunteer for the program or donate materials such as boxes and leashes can contact the organization at [email protected]. Individuals can also donate through YWCA’s standard donation channels and request that their donations be forwarded to the program, Spielman said.

Above all, Spielman said the program is just one example of the different ways domestic abuse survivors need community support to get out of abusive situations.

One in three women and one in seven men reports having experienced intimate partner violence, Spielman says, and an integral part of the centre’s work is educating people on how to recognize and respond to domestic abuse.

The YWCA’s 24-hour hotline can be reached at 1-888-822-2983.