Efforts on rise to protect pets from domestic violence
Lisa LeBlanc, executive director of A Safe Place in Portsmouth, knows first-hand the impact of abuse in a home. (COURTESY)
That's why protecting pets has become part of the mosaic of services offered to abuse victims. Many animal shelters in New Hampshire partner with crisis centers to provide temporary housing for animals when a victim has to leave home in a hurry.
Domestic violence experts all have horror stories about family pets that were abused or killed. For Lisa LeBlanc, executive director of A Safe Place in Portsmouth, it happened early in her 20-year career.
"It was a beautiful Saint Bernard," he said.
"Pets, unfortunately, are often hurt and abused, if not killed, as a way to exert control and intimidation and fear in a relationship," she said. "It sends a very powerful message to somebody when their pet is hurt."
While some states have pet-friendly shelters, New Hampshire does not - although a Concord-based crisis center is working on plans to create one.
"What we are recognizing is that (some) people who have pets just aren't going to be calling because they know our shelters aren't pet-friendly."
Agencies rely on local animal shelters, veterinarians, boarding kennels and volunteers to provide emergency housing for pets of victims in crisis.
Families are encouraged to come and visit their pets. "We'll give them a room where they can sit and spend time," she said.
"We have reunited many, many pets," Dennison said. "That's the ultimate goal.
There's a growing recognition among social service agencies "that human and animal welfare is so connected," Turcott said.
The woman wrote about her gentle and "brave" dog, Bella, who wound up on the receiving end of her abuser's violence.
Afterwards, she wrote, "Bella and I sat in the driveway for a good hour. I promised Bella that day I would never let anything happen to her ever again. That promise I kept."
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or sexual violence, call the statewide toll-free hotline: 1-866-644-3574. Advocates are available to provide support, information and referrals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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