People who work with victims of domestic violence and those who help animals are getting together this week in Regina to discuss what they call “The Link” between animal abuse and violence against people.
The Saskatchewan SPCA is working to create more options for victims of domestic violence who will not leave their abusers unless their animals also have somewhere else to go.
Just last week, the organization heard from a woman who would not leave a violent situation unless her cats could also be given short-term shelter.
“We were trying to make arrangements and she was not going to leave until she knew her older cats were safe,” said Leanne Sillers, the SSPCA’s animal safekeeping co-ordinator.
The SSPCA was able to find a place to look after the woman’s cats, and now the woman has a plan to leave when she is ready.
An unwillingness to leave animals behind is not uncommon for victims of domestic violence.
A Saskatchewan survey found 77 per cent of those who work with victims of domestic violence knew of someone who did not leave an abusive relationship due to concern for the safety and safekeeping of animals.
Sask. looks to Alberta
The survey in Saskatchewan was prompted by the results of a similar study by the SPCA in Alberta in 2012. It found nearly six in 10 women who arrived at shelters in that province had delayed leaving their situation because of concern for their animals.
We have organizations that help animals. We have organizations that help people. But there aren’t really a lot of organizations that take both of them into account.
– Tim Battle
“Many people wouldn’t think of leaving their pets behind,” said Tim Battle, who spent 18 years as director of education for the Alberta SPCA.
“Sometimes that’s the last positive relationship someone has with another living being and they don’t want to break that relationship.”
But, Battle added, “The emergency shelters for women can’t really accommodate pets and we wouldn’t expect them to.”
He first learned about the link between domestic violence and animal abuse before he ever joined the SPCA, as a teacher of troubled adolescents.
Battle said some of the children he was teaching had committed acts of violence against animals, but when he…