If you we are trying to flee a violent situation at home, would you leave yourpets behind?

No? Well, this is the case with most women according to Simone Patterson, thefounder of The Sanctuary Women, Children and Pet Refuge, on Queensland’s GoldCoast.

“Women simply will not leave their pets,” says Patterson. “They know that theyvulnerable to abuse too and would rather stay than risk their beloved animals’health and welfare. We have seen women arrive at the refuge with dogs withspinal injuries from being kicked and cats with their tails broken.”

“These animals get in the middle of the violence, especially dogs who willalways try to protect their female owner. Women know that if they leave theiranimal is at risk and stay in danger themselves rather than risk that.

“Government-funded domestic violence lines say – get rid of your pets and wewill help you. Don’t and we can’t. So these women stay.

” Patterson, a former prison officer in NSW Corrective Services, counsellorand Social Worker, says she has seen both sides of the domestic violenceargument.

“Working mainly in male maximum security gaols I saw a lot of perpetratorsturning up who have killed their partners in domestic violence incidents, orseriously injured with grievous bodily harm. I am aware that in a lot of theseinstances the family pet has been used as a weapon, with the perpetrator awarethat threats against animals are easily carried out and laws are so weak inprotecting them, that women will stay to ensure their pets’ welfare.”

“These men are also aware that there is nowhere for women to go with a pet.One woman who came to our shelter was sleeping under a bridge with her childand dog, aware this means child protection could remove her child if she washomeless, but took the risk to keep her pet safe.

” In another instance, Patterson recalls a woman returning to her home andfinding the family Guinea pig dead and pinned to the front door in a zip-lockbag with a note saying, “next time it will be you and the kids”.

Patterson estimates she currently turns 20 women a day away from the sheltersimply because she doesn’t have the space, Patterson’s concerns are not alone.

The Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre in Victoria receives 90,000calls for help each year. Of those, 9,000 are from people concerned abouttheir pets, and in about 40 per cent of those cases, the animals have beenhurt.

In Queensland, Pets in Crisis offers one month fostering of pets for womenfeeling domestic violence. However, Patterson points out that the average stayin a women’s’ shelter is three months, meaning after four weeks the pet hasnowhere to go.

“It is traumatic enough giving up these animals,” say Patterson, “but to do ittwice is too cruel. If the women don’t have a place to take their pets after amonth, the pets are given to pounds and, if not adopted, are euthanised. Thiscompounds grief – losing a relationship, home and pet – for the woman and herchildren.”

Patterson says she cannot keep up with the demand for women seeking refuge –some travelling from other states on the hope of retaining their pets – andurgently needs funding to keep the shelter open.

“Anything anyone can offer will not just help women and children in need butanimals too,” she says. For more Information:

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