Sometimes people find themselves in a situation where they need to give up their dogs. Often, these pets end up in shelters or rescues, which in turn look for new families to adopt these now-homeless pets.
But what about the people who only need temporary care for their pets? Very often, caring dog owners don’t know where to turn when facing an extended stay in a hospital or rehabilitation facility. And victims of domestic abuse will sometimes stay longer in a dangerous situation for fear of leaving behind their dogs.
To help alleviate the problem, a new program called CT SafePet has started up in Connecticut. SafePet offers temporary foster care to animals whose owners are facing crisis situations. Officially launched in May, animals admitted into the SafePet program live with a volunteer for a few months. When owners have returned from the hospital or have found a new place to live, the pets are returned to their owners.
Annie Chittenden, who runs the program, told The Hour that up to 75 percent of domestic violence victims report that their partners threaten to kill pets, with some actually following through on the threat. Between 18 and 48 percent of abused women, Chittenden says, delay leaving an abusive situation for fear of a pet’s safety.
There are guidelines for the program, which is free. Owners, for instance, can’t simply drop off their dogs and leave, expecting that their pets will receive care. A referring agent, such as a social worker, law enforcement officer, veterinarian, etc., must vouch for the applicant and prove there is need. Also, dogs must be spayed or neutered prior to being placed with a foster family; if pets aren’t already altered, the applicants must agree to the procedure.
The average stay for a pet in the program’s temporary foster care system is 60 days, although extensions can be arranged. The identities of the foster families are strictly guarded secrets in case the partner of a domestic violence victim tries to seek out the pet.
While separated from their pets, owners receive regular updates from SafePet regarding their dogs.
Programs that offer temporary foster care options are few and far between, although there are some. In Los Angeles, for instance, the spcaLA offers the Animal Safety Net Program for victims of domestic violence.
Still, with domestic violence not going away anytime soon, aging Baby Boomers requiring more extensive health care and housing foreclosures looming in record numbers, the need for temporary relief may be on the rise.