If you are in danger, need to speak with an advocate, have general questions about domestic violence or a specific situation you would like to talk through, please call the YWCA’s 24-hour Crisis & Support Helpline:
1-800-334-4628 or TEXT 615-983-5170.

You live with someone who is violent. You have experienced abuse, whether it was economic, emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, or otherwise. You don’t know how you ended up here, but you have finally decided: Enough is enough. You call a domestic violence hotline (like the local YWCA), and you make plans to leave and go to a safe place. But then you realize:

What about your dog or cat? You can’t leave them alone with the person who is perpetrating the violence. Your animal has experienced abuse, too. Who knows what might happen if you leave? But the shelter can’t take them, and you don’t want to leave your pet with friends. After all, it might put your friends in danger.

It’s an impossible choice: Keep yourself safe or keep your pet safe?

Girl holding cat in partial light

Three flash stories from the ASPCA capture in horrible detail what can happen when a pet is involved in a violent situation:

“M. a domestic violence survivor, chose her life over her home, but says she “would have left much sooner” if she knew she could protect her pets. M.’s abuser killed her dog and cat, and used the act to threaten her daughter’s life and prevent M. from leaving.

K., a 34-year-old mother of two, delayed leaving her abusive husband because none of the domestic violence shelters in her area would allow her to bring her dog, to whom her children had become very attached.

Another survivor, P., said her boyfriend dangled her beloved cat out the window and threatened to kill the cat if she upset him. The abuser set fire to the victim’s apartment and her cat perished from severe smoke inhalation. P. eventually found protection for herself and three new cats in a pet-friendly shelter.”

By the Numbers:

  • 71% of pet-owning women entering domestic violence shelters report that their abuser threatened, harmed, or killed a family pet.
  • Up to 25% of domestic violence survivors have reported returning to an abusive partner out of concern for their pet.
  • Only 10% of domestic violence shelters offer housing for pets.

There is a reason people experiencing violence stay in a violent situation out of concern for pets: Abuse of pets and abuse of people often go hand-in-hand. A landmark study on domestic violence identifies pet abuse as one of the four significant predictors for intimate partner violence.

It’s no wonder people stay. What would you do? It’s truly an impossible choice.

Pet-Friendly Shelters

Of course, the obvious solution is to house people and their pets together in a safe place. Sounds simple, right?

But many shelters simply do not have the means to house companion animals. Space concerns, safety concerns, and health concerns, all make it difficult to house pets. It’s a complicated process to bring animals into a shelter meant for people.

The good news: More and more shelters are becoming pet-friendly. The Middle Tennessee YWCA is in the process of building a dedicated pet-friendly facility. Nationwide, the Purple Leash Project is helping domestic violence shelters create housing for pets along with their people.

Crisis Fostering

In the meantime, there is a solution. Until domestic violence shelters are able to meet the full capacity of people experiencing violence with pets, Pawster Nashville wants to help.

We will place your dog or cat in a foster home until you leave the shelter and are ready to be reunited.

In cases of domestic violence, strict confidentiality is important. For this reason, Pawster Nashville will never disclose the location of a pet. And in many cases, fostering is arranged through a case worker to add an extra layer of protection.

We believe that no one should have to choose between keeping their pet safe and keeping themselves safe. No one should have to choose between their life and their pet’s life.

It’s an impossible choice, and Pawster Nashville is working to make sure that no one else has to make it.

Be a Part of the Solution:

Woman with Dog on Floor

Become a Pawster Foster.

You can help someone leave a violent situation today. Sign up to foster a dog or cat at pawsternashville.org/foster. You decide how long you want to foster, and we provide all the supplies you’ll need to care for your foster pet.

Dog sticking head out car window

Become a Volunteer.

Be a part of someone’s lifeline to safety. We looking for people to transport pets, connect foster homes with resources, and anyone with skills in social media, marketing, grant writing, graphic design, and any other aspect of running a nonprofit! Sign up at pawsternashville.org/volunteer.

Dog with stuffed toy on floor

Become a Pawster Provider

Make a gift of $100, $50, or $25 to make sure no one has to decide between their own safety and their pet’s safety. You can also make an in-kind donation from our Amazon Wish List.

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