May 2009 Issue

Helping Women and Pets

Victims of domestic violence often make the choice to stay in an abusive situation — for the sake of pets they won't leave behind.

When Sarah* entered a battered women’s shelter in Virginia with her three young children, she was frightened, exhausted and inconsolable. As she tried to flee her abusive husband, he had held the family’s cat at knifepoint. She had to make a heart wrenching choice. "When he threatened one of my children, I had to leave [the cat]," Sarah tearfully explained to the shelter staff. "A law enforcement officer was sent to the home immediately," relates Allie Phillips, J.D., director of public policy for American Humane, in Alexandria, VA, who witnessed the event at the shelter. "[The police officer] entered the home and found the husband passed out on the floor. The officer also found the cat, who had given birth to a single kitten." When Sarah was reunited at the shelter with her kitty and newborn kitten, "She broke down crying," says Allie. "She said, ‘Now, I have no reason to go back.’"

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