Our Mission

Founded in 2001, Sheltering Animals of Abuse Victims (SAAV) is devoted to stopping the cycle of abuse by:

(1) Reducing barriers to safety for domestic abuse victims by providing safe refuge for animals when a victim leaves an abuser. Domestic abuse shelters typically cannot take animals into shelter and, when they can, it is only for a brief time. 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 to protect their animals. SAAV reduces this barrier to safety by providing victims with temporary, safe, and confidential shelter for animals for up to 90 days while the victim transitions to safety. Shelter is provided primarily through foster homes.

SAAV’s shelter program is provided by SAAV 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 September 2019). To learn about eligibility requirements and other details for SAAV’s shelter program, please visit our FAQ.

(2) Assisting other communities with starting shelter programs for animals affected by domestic abuse utilizing SAAV’s community collaboration model. SAAV routinely provides information and guidance to start-ups across the country who wish to bring SAAV’s model to their own community. Please check out our free Resource Guide to learn more. 

(3) Raising community awareness about the link between domestic violence, animal cruelty and other forms of family violence. SAAV is available to speak to community groups and others about its services, as well as the extensive research documenting the link between domestic abuse and animal cruelty. To inquire about having a speaker, please send an inquiry to info@saavprogram.org.

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 University of Wisconsin Law School friend and colleague, Pamela D. Hart, in 2001. She currently serves as President. 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. She is the Strategic Initiatives and Outreach Advisor to the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School and a Partner at the law firm of DeWitt LLP.


Pamela D. Hart

Pam co-founded SAAV with Megan A. Senatori and currently serves as Secretary. She is the Executive Director of the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School. Prior to joining CALS, Pam served as the Animal Law Program Director at the Animal Legal Defense Fund for 14 years, where she supported over 200 Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters, managed an extensive Attorney Volunteer Network, and partnered with firms and attorneys.


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.