In July of 2017, a 3-month old Chihuahua was found in a restroom at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. An airport security guard found the puppy with the following heartbreaking note: “Hi! I’m Chewy! My owner was in an abusive relationship and couldn’t afford me to get on the flight. She didn’t want to leave me with all her heart but she has NO other option.” The note followed with “My ex-boyfriend kicked my dog when we were fighting and he has a big knot on his head. He probably needs a vet. I love Chewy sooo much – please love and take care of him.”
Chewy’s owner made the painful but brave decision to separate from him so that they both may live the safe life they deserve, but this isn’t always the case; sadly, studies show that concerns about their pets’ safety prevent many domestic violence victims from leaving their abuser. And it’s not surprising given the strong bond between a pet and their owner; we treat our pets like a part of the family, because truly, they are.
Nathaniel Fields, president of the Urban Resource Institute, says that one major way to help is for more domestic violence shelters to accommodate pets, stating that “currently, only a tiny percentage of domestic violence shelters across the country accept pets, and there simply are not enough to meet the extremely high need for these resources. By creating more pet-friendly domestic violence shelters, more victims could flee abuse with their whole family, pets included, and heal in shelter together.”
Last year The Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh operated at 112% capacity and approximately 445 women and children had to be referred to alternative resources due to the overcrowding. As of this posting, the shelter has already raised $10,789.491 of their $12,000 goal to renovate the facility, including plans for a Pet Suite so that victims can feel confident in bringing their pets with them. Hopefully the opportunity will encourage more victims to find the strength to leave their abuser and start a new life.