The federal government can save lives by acting on recommendations from the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, say researchers whose brief informed the report, “Towards a violence-free Canada: Addressing and eliminating intimate partner and family violence.”
The Commons committee followed advice from the Animal and Interpersonal Abuse Research Group in recommending a review of programs dedicated to providing care for the pets of survivors of intimate partner violence.
Authored by UWindsor professors Betty Jo Barrett (social work and women’s and gender studies), Amy Fitzgerald (sociology and criminology and the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research), and Patti Fritz (psychology), and sociologist Rochelle Stevenson of Thompson Rivers University, the brief called for the implementation of federal policy to increase the availability of safe emergency and transition housing for survivors and their pets.
In response, the committee report recommended:
- education for all stakeholders like police services and shelters to ensure they have the information they need to refer women to services that can foster their pets when they leave an abusive relationship; and
- funding for the care of companion pets and shelter of survivors of abuse when they leave an abusive relationship.
“We are pleased that our research has contributed to the development of evidenced-based public policy recommendations in this area,” says Dr. Barrett. She says the inclusion of the recommendation honours the voices of survivors and has the potential to reduce barriers they face when seeking safety for themselves and their animal companions.
Dr. Fitzgerald said government action on their recommendation and others in the report would make human and animal victims safer and ultimately save lives.
“The majority of homes in the country have pets, and many survivors are unwilling to extract themselves from an abusive relationship and leave their companion animals behind,” she says.
“Providing education for frontline works in combination with funding domestic violence shelters to care for companion animals would help to mitigate what we have found through our research to be a considerable barrier to leaving an abusive relationship.”