Our Mission

Founded in 2001, Sheltering Animals of Abuse Victims (SAAV) is a 501(c)(3) all-volunteer, nonprofit organization.  SAAV’s primary goal is to reduce barriers to safety for domestic abuse victims with animals, by providing safe refuge for animals when a victim leaves an abuser.  Research shows that up to 48% of domestic abuse victims delay leaving an abusive relationship because they have no safe shelter for their animals.  Countless victims stay with their abuser to protect their animals.  Domestic abuse shelters typically cannot take animals into shelter and, when they can, it is only for a brief time.  We reduce this barrier to safety by providing victims with temporary, safe, and confidential shelter for their animals for a period of up to 90 days while the victim transitions to safety.  Shelter is provided primarily through foster homes.

SAAV’s shelter program is provided through a generous collaboration with Domestic Abuse Intervention Services and the Dane County Humane Society.   SAAV has provided safe shelter to more than 300 animals affected by domestic abuse in Dane County, Wisconsin (as of February 2018).  To learn about eligibility requirements and other details for SAAV’s shelter program, please visit our FAQ.

In addition to our shelter services, SAAV is devoted to assisting other communities with starting shelter programs using the SAAV’s model.  We routinely provide information and guidance to start ups across the country who wish to bring SAAV’s community collaboration model to their own community.  Please check out our Resource Guide on the tabs above. 

SAAV also raises community awareness about the link between domestic violence, animal abuse and other forms of family violence in an effort to bring individuals together to stop the cycle of abuse. We are available to speak to community groups and others about our services for victims, as well as the extensive research documenting the link between animal abuse and family violence.

SAAV's Core Values are to:

Strengthen the ability of victims to leave abusive relationships by reducing barriers to safety.

Act as a change agent to create conditions in which victims and their animals are safe and free from abuse.

Advocate for the safety of animals at risk of abuse.

Validate the bond between domestic abuse victims, their children, and their animals.

SAAV's Strategic Priorities

• Continue to educate the Dane County community and law enforcement officials about the link between cruelty to animals and domestic abuse.

• Broaden awareness about SAAV and its services beyond traditional audiences.

• Increase the number of foster homes available in SAAV's foster network.

• Develop new relationships with veterinarians as critical to stopping the cycle of abuse.

• Build non-foster home volunteer base, identify skills and expertise, make assignments, and track outcomes.

Board of Directors


Megan A. Senatori

Megan co-founded SAAV with law school friend and colleague, Pamela D. Hart, in 2001.  She currently serves as President. Megan is a Partner and Chair of the Litigation Practice Group at the law firm of DeWitt, LLP.  Megan oversees SAAV's overall operations and coordinates services between SAAV and its collaborating partners, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services and the Dane County Humane Society.  Megan also oversees SAAV's general operations as well as our foster volunteers.


Pamela D. Hart

Pam co-founded SAAV with Megan and currently serves as Secretary. She is the Animal Law Program Director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund where she works to develop animal law programs in law schools across the country. Pam also teaches a course in Animal Law at the University of Chicago Law School.


Meg Sohns

With her deep background in working with domestic abuse victims during a 10 year career at Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), Meg is knowledgeable and passionate about the unique needs of victims of abuse.  She has been a member of the SAAV Board since 2010. Meg graduated from Winona State University in 2007 with a Health Promotion – Community Health Degree with a Women and Gender Studies Minor.  Meg's focus on SAAV's board is client services and advocacy for the domestic abuse victims we serve.


Cheri Carr

Cheri is an Animal Services Officer for Madison and Dane County Environmental Health. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Biology from Iowa State University, and has been active with both wild and domestic animals for most of her life, and professionally for nearly 20 years. She has been an Animal Humane Officer in Dane County since 1996, and administered the animal intake portion of SAAV’s shelter program while an employee at the Dane County Humane Society for many years. She has been a member of the SAAV Board since 2008.  Cheri brings a wealth of experience in animal control and animal welfare issues to SAAV.


Sheila Hart

Sheila joined the SAAV Board of Directors in 2013. Sheila is also a dedicated volunteer at the Dane County Humane Society in the capacity of an Adoption Counselor. Sheila's volunteer experience has included county shelters, animal rescue, and the the court system as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for foster children. She graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelors of Science in Communication.  She also has experience in sales and marketing.