By Mark Squibb | Vol 7 No. 13 (July 4, 2019)
A new initiative launched in participation with the City of Mount Pearl, the RNC, Iris Kirby House, and the SPCA will help those leaving abusive relationships by providing a safe home for their pets.
“Women are four times more likely to stay in an abusive relationship if there’s nowhere for their pet to go,” explained Iris Kirby House executive director Michelle Greene.
“And we know that the pet is used as leverage.”
“If the abusive partner wants control, they will use the pet as a control. They will often threaten to hurt the pet, and imply the next time that it might be the woman.”
And it’s not only dogs and cats people are hesitant to leave behind.
Greene told the small crowd gathered at Mount Pearl City Hall for the announcement about one woman who had trouble leaving an abusive relationship for fear of what might happen to her pet rabbit.
“She couldn’t give up the bunny. We haven’t had the Pet SafeKeeping program at the time, and she went back, she went back because she couldn’t keep the bunny somewhere. We eventually found someone to take the bunny, and she was good.”
Members of RNC, SPCA, Iris Kirby House, and the City were in attendance.
“It really never hit me until we got our own pet. We’ve had our little dog now for two years,” RNC Chief Joe Boland told the crowd.
“This morning when I left the house, my dog was sad, believe it or not. When I go home this afternoon, he’ll be welcoming me at the door. You don’t realize until you have a pet - and most people do - how much a pet means to your family.
“It’s important for the person that lives in that relationship, that they can step aside, walk out of that relationship, and know that the pet is going to be looked after.”
St. John’s and Corner Brook already offer the program, and Boland indicated that it would be coming to Labrador City as well.
“We had people calling who had Mount Pearl addresses and the process didn’t work for them. So its amazing to be able to branch it out now and include so many people in the area,” said Greene.
She explained that the process is straightforward.
“We will have a process where the SPCA will shelter the pets while the women and children are staying at our shelter,” she explained.
“One of the things I would encourage people is that they have solid pet ownership. You need to almost have a paper trail,” she added.
“If the abusive partner can lay claim to the pat, it can get a little bit less easy.”
The City will provide leashes and collars for the pets, while RNC will provide animal carriers to assist with transportation.
“What’s really important to us here at the City of Mount Pearl is that we live, not only in a community that’s a great place to live, play, and work, but also it has to be a safe place, because otherwise it would not be that great place,” summarised Mayor Dave Aker.
Greene said that conversations were currently ongoing with Torbay about launching a a similar program.
She added that St. John’s Kirby House received 11,000 calls this past year.