Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Safe Harbor Vet Style. Finding a safe place for pets while families seek shelter from abusive partners.

Growing up isn't always what we hope it will be. For some there are hidden dangers in being in a relationship. For some the cost can be so great you have to give up everything to try to protect the ones you love. Love can cost us many things, most wonderful, some compromise, but the currency should never be fear, and the price should never include abuse, trauma, your life, or, the lives of those you love.... Domestic abuse and violence affects an estimated 10 million people in the US every year. 

When I was in vet school my mentor and adviser, who was one of the most generous and kind people I have ever met, talked to me about the social services project he wanted to create and make universal. He wanted vets in the area (this was rural south-western Virginia) to help offer his version of "one health care." A place where all aspects of family care could be found under one roof. Can you imagine bringing your toddler, self and pets to a place where everyone could have their medical AND emotional needs met by a group of people all dedicated to helping the entire family unit? Having your teeth cleaned as your toddler got their vaccines, and, your cat and dog had their nails trimmed and ears cleaned? It is possible, although logistically cumbersome. He also wanted this healthcare utopia to offer housing for emergencies too, more specifically, domestic abuse safe housing. He remains a visionary and an inspiration.

Although I have yet to find a human healthcare network willing to co-op with my noisy veterinary medical care abode, I do carry his vision forward and offer JVC as a safe harbor sanctuary whenever we are asked. I don't make the offer publicly as that would defeat the purpose of offering a free safe place to hang out or hide if everyone knew about it and wasn't being kept secret from the people it is here to protect and shelter. But, we do, and we have, and this is one family who we were able to help.

This is the picture of joyous reunion.
This pup stayed with us, hidden in the kennel for weeks while his mom left her home to move into a women's shelter. Most shelters won't allow pets. Few take whole families. He was kept safe, loved, and hidden by us while mom took her life back. He was visited daily by the men and women of the domestic abuse coalition who helped this mom and her kids find a safe place as they moved out of their dangerous home. It was a group effort. We are honored to have been a part of it.

Support, understanding, acceptance, and yes, even active advocacy can come wrapped in unusual packages in the most mundane of places. A vet hospital for instance. This is what a safe harbor looks like. It is the place around the corner. The place you visit daily and have no idea is housing a dog as her mom tries to find a women's shelter for herself, and her kids. 

This is the place that protects the four legged kids of the family who data shows often see the beginning of the abuse and are used a pawns in the terrorizing and torture to keep the spouses fearful and compliant. An abusive house can be a death sentence for pets. The stress, the neglect, the manipulation, and the role they play in control are often hidden, unrecognized and silent. Kids with marks on their bodies, changes in their behaviors, and the scrutiny of a social school system trained to identify problems and mandated to report them are far more visible. Pets, well, pets can be hidden. Pets in homes with abuse and violence are at great risk, and people stay just to protect them because they fear they will lose the ones they love most, the only family member who might truly love them unconditionally and they fear what fate would befall them if they were left behind. The abused need their family and cannot abandon them, kids and pets equally.

Here's one report analysis;
"In households with a history of domestic abuse, pets can be a complicating factor. Not only are pets likely to be the target of abuse, but people who are the victims of abuse often refuse to seek shelter for fear of abandoning their pets.

The statistics are grim: Seventy-one percent of pet-owning women who go to abuse shelters reported that their abuser had injured, maimed, threatened or killed pets, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. And as many as 40 percent of abused women stayed in an abusive home because they refused to leave their pets behind." 

What would you do? Would you leave a relationship without your kids? Your pets? Where would you go if you couldn't take them?

Jarrettsville Vet is a safe harbor. It is a place we built to save the little pieces of a life in progress. The place where honest advice, fair transparent prices and assistance in the best and worst days is available. It is also the place where a food pantry is kept for those in need locally. Food, litter, pet supplies, etc., are collected daily in our clinic and then brought to the local food pantry to be distributed monthly to those in need. There is always a line, it is always a huge number of families, and the pet supplies are too often the first items sought, and the first section to be cleaned bare. Food and litter are in such high demand that the large bags are broken into smaller portions to try to meet the need. This food and supplies are yet another of our safe harbors for those not under our roof.

This is the face of gratitude. A pup who has a mom who loves him, and a society to protect them both. 

Serving the public isn't just about providing care to paying customers. Serving them includes opening your heart and home just a little bit wider than you have to. Being brave enough to know that you were simply lucky enough to have not needed a place like this when you were 20. Lucky enough to live in a place with protection to those whose voices lie quietly hushed in the dark corners of a world too full of judgement, blame and criticism. Lucky is about being courageous enough to ask for help and imagine a different ending where "happy" is foreseeable, and, not just a fairy tale ending other people get to live.

For anyone out there fearing for their own life, their dependents safety, and the terrible turmoil of not knowing where to go, or who to reach out to, there is help. We are so blessed to live in a country where anger, abuse, and manipulation for control, fear, and power is not accepted as a womans/pets/childs/persons place.

Be the voice for others who can't chose. Be the protective parent. If your pet needs safe keeping we are here to help. We will also assist in finding a safe place for the rest of your family. This is who we are, a safe harbor.

A very big thank you to all of you out there who help the voices hidden and huddled.

What else does JVC do?
Cat shelters in the fall. We collect donated supplies to make outdoor safe, warm shelters for the cats who do not have warm homes to winter over in.. (a separate subject for another day). Here is a video on Making Cat Shelters.

References for sources of assistance; 

911.. just call,, use a friends phone, come to our clinic, use ours. There is help.

Domestic Violence in the US per year, via Wikipedia, here

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I am also posting lots of informative videos at my YouTube channel here.

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