In a crisis, pets can be an important factor in maintaining a sense of normalcy. For victims of domestic violence, they’re a critical lifeline.

People experiencing domestic violence often rely on pets to provide love and support. But when victims attempt to leave abusive situations, they may not have time or resources to make arrangements for animals.

SafePAWS, operated by the Community Safety Network in partnership with PAWS of Jackson Hole, is one of only two domestic abuse shelters in Wyoming that also welcomes pets.

Domestic violence and animal abuse often go hand-in-hand. About 70% of women fleeing domestic violence situations also report pet abuse. Nearly 50% of victims say they failed to escape or delayed escaping a violent situation because they feared leaving their pet alone with a violent partner.

That number is significantly higher in situations where the animal has already experienced abuse.

When the outbreak of COVID-19 caused people to remain inside their homes, domestic violence activists feared a spike in abuse.

“Abusers could experience heightened financial pressures and stress, increase their consumption of alcohol or drugs, and purchase or hoard guns as an emergency measure,” said Andy Cavallaro, executive director of the Community Safety Network. “We know that all of these factors increase the likelihood that abuse is rising.”

Cavallaro said the CSN is committed to ensuring the safety of domestic violence victims and their pets on a campus designed with safety “at its core.”

Two small shelters — Coney’s Cottage and Carol’s Place — that house cats, dogs and other small pets are located in the backyard of the CSN campus. Care of the animals remains the responsibility of their owners, so owners are in regular contact with their pets while at the shelter. If the owner needs assistance with their pet’s care, PAWS is able to help.

The length of stay for people residing at the shelter depends on a number of factors.

“We have the ability to provide emergency services for up to eight weeks, but we support the client in whatever she identifies as the needs of the pet,” Cavallaro said.

Anyone affected by abuse can call the Community Safety Network’s 24-hour help line at 733-SAFE. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-7233. Those unable to speak safely can log onto or text LOVEIS to 866-331-9474.

For other animal stories, check out the Peak Pets special section in the June 24 Jackson Hole News&Guide.

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