New cat program supports domestic violence victims
One of the reasons victims might not be able to leave harmful situations is pet safety, which 18-48% of women said was a factor. To help bring people to safety, the Wadena County Humane Society and Someplace Safe are offering housing for cats.
As a way to support people in domestic violence situations, the Wadena County Humane Society and Someplace Safe are offering housing for cats.
While domestic violence victims are seeking a safe shelter, the program provides space for cats at the Humane Society while also partnering with foster hosts. The program will begin with the first phase of the Humane Society building project this year. The Humane Society also hopes to grow the program to include dogs.
One of the reasons victims might not be able to leave harmful situations is pet safety, which 18-48% of women said was a factor. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence also reports that of women who own pets and are entering shelters, 71% said their abusers injured, maimed, killed or threatened their pets. Both women and men can be domestic violence victims with one in three women and one in four men in the United States experiencing physical violence from an intimate partner.
“Domestic violence is about power and control, and often victims stay in dangerous situations because of threats by their abusers against what they love and what they hold dear,” said Alison Francis, Wadena Someplace Safe crime victim advocate. “It could be threats against their parents, threats against their children, threat against the secrets that they hold onto but also threats against their pets and so very often we have people who can’t leave because they have three dogs or they have cats … and they’re afraid to leave because their abuser has threatened to do harm to their animals.”
Domestic violence victims would connect with Someplace Safe, who then works with the Humane Society to place the pets. Whether the cats are at the Humane Society or in foster homes, the goal is to provide safe connections in-person or online for pet owners while their cat is being cared for.
“Sometimes your pet is your biggest comfort and supporting you through this, and so to give it up’s going to be a really big trust situation and we really want to be a part of that solution and really supporting that individual going through that change in their life,” said Tracy Adams Kooman, Humane Society Board Chair. The program allows people to know their pets are safe while giving them time to develop a plan, according to Francis.
The foster hosts go through an approval process, which will include additional protocols. The foster process is an important step for people’s abusers to not have access to the pet. If a pet is given to a friend or family member, the abusive partner could easily find the pet or the individual who is looking for safety, as Kooman said.
The individual can have their cat, or cats, in the program for as long as needed. Many domestic violence shelters do not accept pets . Hotels are accepting more pets, though there can be difficulties with certain amounts and breeds, Francis said.
“We are committed to protecting that cat as long as needed and then giving them that opportunity to have their pet back,” Kooman said.
After working animal rescues for 10 years in Wadena, Kooman learned about the program through the North Dakota Souris Valley Animal Shelter executive director Shelbi Waters. She helped the Humane Society find grants, including one for $20,000 from RedRover. RedRover’s Safe Housing grants enable domestic violence shelters to create on and off-site spaces to house pets, and allows animal shelters to build dedicated housing for animal victims of abuse, according to a RedRover news release.
“Nobody wants to believe it’s happening in your area but unfortunately I believe it’s happening everywhere,” Kooman said about domestic violence situations.
The community partnerships care for pets and domestic violence victims.
“When resources like Someplace Safe is able to work with places like the Wadena County Humane Society, our victims and our clients really only need to talk with one person so when they’re talking with their advocate they don’t then have to make phone calls around finding someone to assist with their animals because maybe we can do that all in one call,” Francis said. “That’s really one of the things that we try to be very mindful of as advocates is not to revictimize our victims, and so that means for building support systems where … a victim’s story doesn’t have to be told over and over and over again.”
"It’s a really critical factor in their safety. ...When you can’t take your pet, you’re more than likely to stay in that abusive situation so it’s really an incredible program.”
— Tracy Adams Kooman
The organizations also plan to organize pet pantries for cat and dog food, beds, toys and treats at the Someplace Safe office locations.
You can find domestic violence shelters, make a plan to safety and learn about identifying abuse on thehotline.org ; you can also call 800-799-7233 or text “Start” to 88788 for help. You can also search for pet safe shelters on the Animal Welfare Institute website.
Someplace Safe has a 24/7 crisis hotline available for all victims of crime by calling 800-974-3359. You can also reach the Wadena office at 218-631-3311.
Humane Society project update
The remodel of the previous Freshwater building on Hwy 10 will begin by the end of the year. Kooman said projects such as a new roof and demolition of the interior could start in the fall. The board has awarded 80-90% of the project bids.
The project will be completed in two phases with the first a focus on a cat clinic and the second expanding the building for additional dog space.
If you are interested in supporting the building project, you can make a donation by visiting www.wadenacountyhumanesociety.org or contacting Kooman at email@example.com. There is also a golf fundraiser at the Whitetail Run Golf Course on Aug. 9 at noon. You must register in advance .
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Wadena County Humane Society contact information. This story has been updated with the correct contact information.