Last weekend we celebrated the 93rd anniversary of Women’s’ Equity, but with a rather sad twist: the focus was on the alarming increase in the number of homeless women, and especially homeless mothers and their children.
So what has that got to do with animal rescue? Plenty.
Animal rescue experts have long recognized what is known as “The Link.” This is the sad acknowledgment that abuse aimed at one being is easily transferred to another; if someone hits the spouse they’ll hit the kids and kick the pets. A bully is a bully is a bully.
This “Link” also links to homelessness because many MANY times a victim will stay with an abuser because there is no safe place to go WITH PETS… pets they know will suffer the brunt of the abuser’s anger if left behind unprotected. Pets are also often used by abusers in a sick game of control, both with adults and children: “Do (or don’t do) this or I’ll kill your cat.” “If you tell, the dog dies.” I knew one seemingly strong, self-assured woman who was a counselor and social worker ... while in her private life she was manipulated by a man who, once she refused to show reaction to the pain he inflicted on her, caved when he began beating her tiny dog.
Some communities are responding to this in one or more appropriate ways:
• issuing restraining orders that include pets in the order of protection
• providing pet-friendly safe houses or
• fosters who will care for the pet until the owner has secured safe housing away from the abuser.
If your community is not among those offering these forward-thinking solutions, stand up for change NOW. The only other options are unacceptable, and these abused people and their pets desperately need your support. Contact area abuse agencies, county authorities, women’s’ support groups, law enforcement, and animal rescue societies demanding that they address this problem head on and not allow it to add to the burgeoning number of women on the streets and animals in shelters. Remember, dogs are not only man’s best friend but woman’s as well… and now we need to be theirs.
Footnote: While at a SW Florida 400+ attendee conference on women's equity and homelessness at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom, an audience member suffered a seizure. She was lying on the carpeted floor with medical personnel from the audience helplessly surrounding her and EMTs on the way... but relief came in the form of a tiny grey poodle the size of a Beanie Baby: it had silently been listening to all the commotion from inside an inconspicuous red bag next to this lady's chair. The little therapy pet confidently snuggled into the crook of the woman's neck and the immediate calming effect was obvious to everyone. These animals give so much to us, don't they deserve our protection?