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Local group makes sure domestic abuse victims AND their pets get to safety

WSBT 22

A local group is working to make sure pets are taken care of in instances of domestic abuse.

That's one way Domestic and Sexual Abuse Services in southwest Michigan is trying to help victims escape dangerous situations.

Pets are often part of our family. In some cases people even consider them their children. That's why DASAS is taking steps to protect their furry friends, so that it can ultimately help their owners, too.

DASAS advocates want victims and survivors of abuse to know their door is always open.

Inside they help them create safety plans to leave abusers and offers counseling, therapy and support groups for free.

In emergencies, victims are allowed to stay in a 30-day shelter.

Pets aren’t allowed there.

Deborah Hackworth at DASAS recalls how a victim reacted to that news.

“They said ‘Well, what about my pets?’ And I said ‘Your safety is more important’ and she said ‘Well, which one of your daughters would you leave to be in a dangerous situation?’”

DASAS Executive Director Rose Ludwick says more than half of domestic violence victims have reported their pets have been threatened, harmed or killed by their partners.

“You don’t think of domestic violence affecting the family pet, but it’s very real. It’s a real barrier to survivors leaving or victims leaving their situation.”

Those individuals are often isolated and kept from their friends and family. In many cases, pets are the only thing that provides victims comfort and support.

“Many times abusers will use the pets as pawns to keep someone in the abusive relationship."

“It can be life-threatening because then ultimately they are going back to a violent situation,” said Ludwick.

That’s why DASAS created a solution to let victims know there’s a way for them and their furry companion to get out of danger.

It works with local veterinarians to get vaccinations up to date, and with kennels to find a safe place for them to stay while their owner is at the shelter.

The Animal Rescue Fund can help victims pay for those costs.

In August, DASAS is hosting Walk a Mile in Her Shoes to represent women and victims who have suffered at the hands of abusers.

For more information about the event, volunteer opportunities and services DASAS offers, click here: http://www.dasasmi.org/events

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