By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – ‘Anna’ was able to focus on her goals and getting her life back together free of violence, knowing that her kitten was safe and receiving the best of care. This is one of the success stories of Catholic Charities of Jackson’s Shelter for Battered Families, now known as the Jackson Victim Services program since they added their “Safe Haven for Pets” program to their shelter program in July 2020.
Jackson Victim Services offered services to 161 women and children over the past year and began the discussing a partnership with Mississippi State University in May 2020 to care for pets of those fleeing domestic violence situations. Sarah Bradley, program director of the Jackson Division of Victim Services for Catholic Charities says that many victims who are pet owners do not come into shelters due to not having suitable living arrangements for their pets.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, as many as 65% of domestic violence victims are unable to escape abusive situations because they are concerned about what will happen to their pets. And, as many as 71% of pet owners entering domestic violence shelters report that their batterer had threatened, injured or killed family pets.
As for the new “Safe Haven for Pets” program at Catholic Charities, it joins a small percentage of domestic violence shelter programs across the country that offer service for pets. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, only 12% of domestic violence programs across the country can provide shelter for pets.
Pets in the “Safe Haven for Pets” program partnership with Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine can stay from days to months, until their owners are able to return for them. The program also provides vaccines, flea and tick control, spay or neuter surgeries, heartworm and parasite testing and treatment, and any other medically necessary treatment for the animals.
Bradley says that ‘Anna,’ who came to the shelter in July with her kitten was pleased with the services provided to and for her kitten. “She stated she was able to focus on her goals and getting her life back together free of violence, knowing that her kitten was safe and receiving the best of care,” said Bradley.
“Anna received updates and pictures of her kitten which meant a lot to her. She reported that her kitten was therapy for her on some of her darkest days. Because of the new service, Anna made the decision to come into the shelter for service.”
For now, when a victim needs assistance with their pet, the Catholic Charities case manager contacts a local animal shelter. Then the pet is transported to the animal shelter by the case manager for the safety of the pet. Throughout the program, the shelter resident then receives weekly updates and pictures of their pet.
Bradley says, “because our program offers emotional and supportive assistance, we are happy to have the “Safe Haven for Pets” program in place for consumers who need it.”
If you need assistance escaping abuse, please call Catholic Charities at (601) 366-0222 or 1-800-273-9012.