The Banfield Foundation announced its commitment to raising awareness of the link between domestic violence and animal abuse by committing to invest $1 million over four years through its new Safer Together initiative. The program was designed to help create a world where victims of domestic violence and their pets can find safety together. This multi-faceted initiative includes a grant program, the creation of an all-volunteer Advisory Committee, continuing education for the veterinary profession, and a public awareness campaign.
Research suggests up to 89 percent of pet-owning domestic violence victims report their abuser has either threatened, injured or killed the family pet1. As many as 48 percent of victims remain in an abusive relationship because they fear for the safety of their pet2. However, with a mere estimated six to 10 percent of domestic violence shelters allowing animals onsite, the need to create and grow support for pet-friendly programs feels both critical and urgent to protect the human-animal bond and ultimately, save lives.
“Through our work and the work of other outstanding organizations, we hope to create a world where victims never have to choose between their own safety and the safety of their loved ones, including their pets. Victims often remain in a dangerous environment because they do not have access to a pet-friendly shelter or program, and we believe saving the life of a pet can save the life of a human,” said Kim Van Syoc, Executive Director, Banfield Foundation. “Pets play an essential role in families, particularly during crises, and that includes domestic violence. Keeping pets safe and healthy helps ensure they remain a vital part of their family support system, which we believe will lead to better outcomes for both people and pets.”
The foundation’s new Safer Together grant program enables qualifying nonprofit organizations to apply for funding as they increase their capacity to help people and pets escaping domestic violence. Funding will largely focus on ensuring pets have access to preventive and emergency veterinary care, temporary shelter and behavior training. Nonprofits can also use a portion of the grant money to cover costs of a dedicated animal support specialist focused on pet health and well-being.
“Veterinary care is essential to providing comprehensive services to human and animal victims of domestic violence. Because domestic violence is about power and control, many victims are prevented from seeking veterinary care for their pets by their abuser,” said Myra Rasnick, Executive Director of Ahimsa House, the first and only domestic violence foster program in Georgia. “Approximately 95 percent of pets entering our program require some form of veterinary care whether preventive or emergency to treat injury or illness due to abuse and neglect. Veterinarians play a crucial role in not only treating these pets, but also recognizing the signs of animal cruelty. Making the connection between animal cruelty and domestic violence makes veterinarians a lifeline for victims of domestic violence, providing earlier intervention that can help save both animal and human lives.”
Education and Awareness
Later this year, the foundation will focus its efforts on raising awareness within the general public as well as the veterinary profession about the link between domestic violence and animal abuse. By engaging and training the veterinary profession and providing educational resources, the foundation hopes to expand the universe of people aware of the link between domestic violence, people and their pets. As such, the foundation has created an all-volunteer Advisory Committee of leading experts within the animal welfare and domestic violence industry to help guide the Safer Together program. Committee members include:
- Phil Arkow, Coordinator, The National LINK Coalition
- Maya Gupta, Ph.D., Senior Director of Research, ASPCA
- Allie Phillips, Founder and CEO, Sheltering Animals & Families Together (SAF-T)™
- Myra Rasnick, Executive Director, Ahimsa House
- Robert Reisman, DVM, Supervisor of Forensic Sciences, ASPCA
- Marlene Richter, Executive Director, Noah’s Animal House
As part of the initiative’s launch, the foundation is also funding an additional $100,000 in grants to cover capital costs for an existing pet-friendly shelter or foster system to enhance its pet experience or provide new amenities designed to improve the overall well-being of pets.
Funding pet-friendly domestic violence service programs is not new for the foundation. Since its inception in September 2015, the foundation has awarded nearly $200,000 to 29 domestic violence related nonprofits in 19 states including Washington, D.C. By the end of 2023, the Banfield Foundation will have granted more than $1 million to nonprofits committed to this issue.
For more information on the Safer Together grant program, to apply for a grant, or donate to the Banfield Foundation, visit BanfieldFoundation.org.