By Foster Mom: Rachel
Like so many women, domestic violence has touched my life; statistics show that one in four women will be a victim in her lifetime. I’ve always been a strong advocate and supporter of victims’ rights, and in my search for ways to do as much as I could to help end the cycle of domestic abuse, I discovered one of the most phenomenal programs I’ve ever seen in helping victims remove one more barrier to leaving their abusers.
Helping their beloved pets.
I’ve been a Foster Mom for the Sheltering Animals of Abuse Victims ("SAAV") Program since 2010, and it’s one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.
Anyone who has ever had the loyalty and love of an animal understands how strong the bond is between pet and owner. It’s not surprising that a huge percentage of victims are afraid to leave their abusive partners (and often don’t) simply because they can’t leave their pets behind.
But, as a Foster Mom for SAAV, I’ll never get to meet the owners of my foster “fur kids.” To keep everyone safe, we all adhere to a strict code of confidentiality, which means clients of Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) who use the SAAV Program have no choice but to trust that sending their pets off to live with a stranger is safer than leaving them behind with an abuser.
But, if I could talk to these victims, I’d hold their hands and promise I’ll take excellent care of their fur babies. I’ll bring their scared, confused, and lonely animals into my home and shower them with love, comfort and attention.
I take our foster dogs for walks, and throw balls in the back yard. I convince shy foster cats out from behind couches and under beds with tuna and quiet coaxing.
Everyone is allowed on the bed for belly rubs and ear scratches.
Every foster leaves our home a little bit heavier thanks to extra treats tucked in their food dishes.
I take pictures of every foster case we’ve had, and hang them on a bulletin board in our hallway so I’ll never forget the wonderful energy they brought into our home.
The only connection I have with these animals’ owners are the occasional updates and photos I send through my contact at the Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) or SAAV … who passes it along to the appropriate DAIS case worker … who shares it with the client using DAIS services.
There’s a reason people become volunteer foster families for SAAV – we have a crazy amount of love for animals, and we’re equally dedicated to helping victims take the steps they need to build a new and better life for themselves and their families.
Domestic violence impacts the entire family … pets included. SAAV has built an amazing model in providing vital support to victims, and I’m proud to be involved.