Comstock's magazine 0219 - February 2019 - Page 83

F or victims of domestic violence, plan- ning to escape an abusive situation can be made much more difficult if there is a pet involved. Safe houses and shelters may not be equipped to handle animals at their facilities. Many survivors are faced with the dilemma of whether to leave their beloved pets in a dangerous situation, send them somewhere else to live or remain in an abusive environment “People would decide to stay in violent situations, even if we talked about boarding their pets in an offsite kennel. [If ] they didn’t have their pet with them, they would stay in a violent situation,” says Jenny Davidson, CEO of Stand Up Placer, an Auburn-based nonprofit which operates a safe house for survivors. Last November, Stand Up Placer was awarded $7,500 by Sacramento- based nonprofit RedRover to build outdoor kennels on its property. The nonprofit had already helped the shelter transition seven of its 13 rooms to accommodate pets by stocking rooms with indoor kennels, leashes, toys and flea treatment. “Basically all the things you’d need for a pet if a survivor left in the middle of the night,” says Davidson, adding that 71 percent of women entering shelters say their abuser had threatened, hurt or killed a pet. Anne* currently stays at Stand Up Placer’s safe house, but says she would have sooner slept in a tent if that meant getting to keep her dog, Sammy, with her. However, at the safe house, her dog sleeps in her room. “I would not have left if I couldn’t bring my dog with me,” Anne says. RedRover is a national nonprofit that was founded in 1987 with a mission to help animals in crisis, which historically meant response to natural disasters, but has expanded in recent years to include animals living amid domestic abuse. “People would decide to stay in violent situations, even if we talked about boarding their pets in an offsite kennel. [If] they didn’t have their pet with them, they would stay in a violent situation.” — Jenny Davidson, CEO, Stand Up Placer “RedRover’s mission is to bring ani- mals from crisis to care, but we also re- ally feel like we can help people by help- ing their animals, and strengthen that bond between them,” Forsyth says. With a $3 million budget and 20 person staff, Forsyth credits RedRover’s network of 4,000 volunteers for the non- profit’s wide reach. RedRover expand- ed and relocated its office to Midtown Sacramento in December, and since 2012 has increased its grant size from $3,000 to as much as $20,000. RedRov- er’s ability to assist shelters like Stand Up Placer has meant a world of differ- ence to survivors like Jones who, the night she left her abuser after 34 years, had time only to grab a few personal items and her dog Sammy. According to Anne, Sammy is the one constant that has helped her through her personal crisis. “He goes everywhere I go,” says Anne. “Sometimes I get so depressed that I don’t even know where my next breath is going to come from, but having Sammy [here at Stand Up Placer] is such an emotional support. He loves me and he needs me, and I need him just as much.” n Since 2012, RedRover has awarded Safe Housing Grants amounting to $477,000 * Identifying details have been changed to to help domestic violence shelters and protect the identity of the source. safe houses retrofit and accommodate pets. But of the approximately 1,900 Jordan Venema is a California-based domestic violence programs across the writer that enjoys gin and teaching him- U.S., only 174 shelters currently ac- self dead languages. He received a mas- commodate pets in some capacity, says ter’s of liberal arts from St. John’s College, RedRover President and CEO Nicole but swears he’s learned more from his Forsyth. Of that total, 73 shelters have precocious son, Cassian, than he ever received grants from RedRover. did from a book. February 2019 | comstocksmag.com 83