Domestic Violence & Pets

Every year, more than 10 million people in the United States are physically abused by an intimate partner – and this abuse affects pets, too. Domestic violence shelters provide a safe and secure place to recover from trauma, but many do not allow pets. The result? Survivors delay or avoid leaving abusers rather than leave a pet behind.  

Currently, only 17% of domestic violence shelters have on-site pet programs. The 25 by 2025 campaign has set a goal to help 25% of domestic violence shelters in the U.S. become pet friendly by 2025. Here’s why shelters should be pet friendly: 

woman out of focus in the background and she is holding a small chihuahua who is looking at the camera

Five reasons to become pet friendly

1. Pet-friendly shelters remove a key barrier for survivors to escape abuse.

65% of domestic violence survivors report having a pet, but nearly half delay or avoid leaving abusers out of concern for their pets. Many survivors of domestic violence have also reported living in their cars with their pets rather than leaving them behind.

The difficult choice survivors face between staying in a potentially life-threatening situation or living in a car can put both the survivor and the pets’ safety and well-being at risk. Increasing the number of pet-friendly domestic violence shelters will ensure more survivors and pets are able to find safety and healing together.

a woman outside petting a golden retriever

2. Pet-friendly shelters can break the link between abuse of pets and abuse of people.

Research shows 71% of women in domestic violence shelters report an abuser threatened, injured, or killed a pet.

There is a documented connection between violence towards pets and humans, and abusers often use pets as a manipulative tool to exert control and emotional abuse. Increasing the number of pet-friendly domestic violence shelters will help stop this abuse.

3. Pet-friendly shelters can strengthen the connection and trust between survivors, their pets, and shelter staff.

Shelter staff have reported that having pets onsite facilitates stronger connections between survivors and staff — and research shows that the presence of pets can strengthen relationships and trust with other people.

Additionally, interacting with pets can foster traits of compassion and empathy. Trust, compassion, and empathy are essential to creating an environment for healing and can ease the transition away from experiencing abuse for everyone, pets included!

woman laying on a sofa with her white fluffy dog laying on top of her
woman laying in her bed with a cat and its kitten

4. There are resources, grants, and funding available for shelters to become pet friendly RIGHT NOW!

With so many resources available to shelters, there has never been a better time to become pet friendly! There are funding opportunities available to shelters, such as Safe Housing Grants, the federal PAWS Act funding, and many others, scroll down for more information!

The 25 by 2025 campaign offers training courses, handbooks and other resources to learn about the steps to be pet friendly and the many design options for pet-friendly spaces. If your shelter is ready to become pet friendly, take the pledge!  

5. Pet-friendly shelters allow pets and people to heal together.

Many survivors of domestic violence report that their pets are essential to their recovery from trauma. In addition to providing vital companionship, pets provide significant health benefits as survivors take steps toward healing.

Studies show that pets can decrease anxiety, blood pressure and cholesterol, and increase levels of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin —the “feel-good” chemicals. Pets also benefit from staying with their human through the stressful transition from their home to a domestic violence shelter. Familiarity and consistency are important for pets and people healing from trauma together.

Photo of a woman standing outside against fall leaves holding her french bulldog, the bulldog is looking over her shoulder at the camera

Funding a pet-friendly program

While cost can seem like a barrier to many domestic violence shelters seeking to become pet friendly, there are many funding opportunities available.

Shelters that have become pet friendly have noted that this transition can present a new fundraising opportunity rather than  a drain on budgets! Becoming pet friendly presents an opportunity to: 

  • Attract new donors who give to animal-focused organizations, but who may not have previously considered donating to a shelter. 
  • Include animals in program imagery. The fact is, confidentiality makes image sharing difficult for domestic violence shelters, but animals can bring the “cute factor”! 
  • Solicit in-kind donations such as pet food, pet supplies, toys, etc.! 

There are also several grants available to help with the costs of construction, renovation, and even pet supplies and food. Below are just a few of the grant applications open for submission. If applying for grants is new to your organization, consider taking a free course in proposal writing! 

  • Community Foundations are also a great avenue for funding. These organizations exist to improve the lives of people in a designated geographic area. See if there’s a community foundation in your area!
  • The AKC Humane Fund’s Women’s Shelters Grant provides financial assistance to domestic violence shelters that accept pets or are making improvements to begin welcoming pets. The funds are awarded for essential operational support relating to the housing of pets or capital improvements specifically for the housing and maintenance of pets. Apply now.
  • The Mary Kay Ash Foundation awards grants to shelters across the country providing critical, life-saving services to women and children seeking safety from an abusive partner. The grant cycle opens annually in early January, with applications due at the end of April. Grants amount to $20,000. Apply now.
  • The Banfield Foundation’s Safe Together Grants fund veterinary care, temporary boarding, behavior training, and dedicated animal care positions. Funding can be awarded directly to shelters or to other nonprofits housing pets on behalf of shelters.
  • RedRover’s Safe Housing grants are awarded to nonprofit domestic violence shelters and animal organizations to fund pet-friendly housing options. Funds can also be used to begin a foster program to care for survivors’ pets, begin a boarding service for survivors’ pets, veterinary care, and pet deposits. Grants amount to up to $60,000. Apply now.
  • Rescue Rebuild, a program by Greater Good Charities, completes shelter renovations for domestic violence shelters looking to create pet-friendly housing options. Rescue Rebuild travels to selected shelters and spends one to two weeks working to complete general repairs and renovations. These projects are part of a renovation grant, meaning that there is no cost to the shelter. Apply now.
  • The Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime funds domestic violence shelters offering assistance to survivors and their pets through the Emergency and Transitional Pet Shelter and Housing Assistance Grant ProgramOrganizations can apply under three categories: Training and Technical Assistance, Large Grants, and Small Grants. Grants are awarded for a 36-month period of performance. Apply here. 

Take the Pledge

The 25 by 2025 Pet-Friendly Pledge is a commitment to keep pets and people together.

There’s a place for everyone in our movement. Take the pledge today, claim your badge, and display it proudly everywhere!