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Pet Concerns Can Trap NH Domestic Violence Victims

Photo: Help is now available for New Hampshire victims of domestic violence with local shelters offering Safe Haven for pets. Photo Credit: @mlcliff
Photo: Help is now available for New Hampshire victims of domestic violence with local shelters offering Safe Haven for pets. Photo Credit: @mlcliff
June 25, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. - Domestic violence victims in the Granite State who may stay in abusive homes because of concerns about their pets' well-being if they leave now have a place to turn.

People who commit domestic violence often also harm pets, and that can make victims of domestic violence feel trapped, said Paula Mattis, chief executive of the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire. Mattis tracks the latest data in her work as vice president of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

"People who are in domestic violence situations really worry about what will happen to their pets or livestock," she said. "One study estimated between 25 and 40 percent of battered women feel that way, and so are unable to escape abusive situations."

The Animal Rescue League in Bedford is one of many local shelters that provide "Safe Haven," a program for pets, so that victims of domestic violence can leave their animals in a safe place while they seek help.

Mattis said animal abuse is one of the top four indicators that a person also is at risk of being an abuser. So, unexplained injuries to pets can be a warning sign that someone might also abuse their partner, spouse or roommate.

"All of a sudden, there are some health problems or unexplained injuries; you come back and the animal's looking really scared or behaving differently," she said. "An example of this might be a animal who's usually out and about in the home is now hiding under a bed or in a closet."

She said once victims have stabilized their living situation, most shelters allow them to reclaim their pets without paying a boarding fee. The typical stay is four to six weeks, and she said shelters often are looking for foster families so pets don't have to stay cooped up in a shelter.

More information is online at americanhumane.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH