It’s no secret that pets make life better — ‘Pets and People are Better Together’ is a core belief at Purina. I can’t imagine not having my dogs Bailey and Guinness in my life, much less being faced with a decision to choose between their safety or my own. That decision is being made every day by domestic abuse victims who want to leave but can’t because there’s no safe place to go with their pets. Today, only 10% of domestic violence shelters in the United States allow pets. We want to change that.
Earlier this year, Purina announced a partnership with the national nonprofit RedRover and launched the Purple Leash Project — aimed at raising awareness and increasing the number of pet friendly domestic violence shelters in the United States. One in three women and one in four men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, making it a prevalent problem that is causing far too many of our friends and neighbors, and their pets, to suffer in silence.
Purina and RedRover are on a mission to keep victims of domestic violence and their pets together to protect the bond they share. This October –Domestic Violence Awareness Month — we’re asking fellow pet lovers to join us in growing awareness of this problem.
The Power of Pets
The physical and emotional health benefits of having a pet are well documented, so when we think about how trauma might impact the relationship — or bond — it is easy to understand why a pet owner wouldn’t want to leave a pet with an abuser. Pets are a source of comfort and unconditional love for survivors, including children who are witnessing or experiencing abuse.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 71% of pet owners entering domestic violence shelters report that their abuser had threatened, injured or killed family pets. This is why nearly half of survivors will delay leaving abuse if they can’t take their pet with them.
Domestic violence survivor Jill struggled to leave her abuser, but her dog Scarlett played an important role in her ultimate decision. “The most amazing thing about Scarlett is her emotional intuition. She helped me get out of my situation because Scarlett was getting physically ill from living in violence and fear,” said Jill. The impact of the abuse on Scarlett gave Jill the courage to leave. “I left with pretty much nothing except my dog and my car. I would have given up my car before I would have given up Scarlett.”
Luckily, Jill was able to find safe haven with Scarlett at a domestic violence facility that had recently been updated by Purina volunteers to become pet-friendly. Today they continue to heal together.
Supporting Survivors, Driving Change
Purina learned about the role that pets play in domestic abuse situations and the barriers that exist in finding pet friendly services for victims about 6 years ago, and we knew we had to help. The more we learned about the role pets play in a domestic abuse victim’s decision to leave her (or his) abuser, the more we knew Purina’s voice and passion could help make a difference.
We started by working with the largest provider of domestic violence services in New York City. Together, we’ve created pet-friendly spaces at their shelters and helped them design and build the nation’s first domestic violence shelter where every apartment is pet-friendly.
In 2018, Purina also helped found the PAWS Act Coalition, a group of companies and not-for-profit organizations working to increase awareness and support legislation to promote more pet-friendly domestic violence shelters. The PAWS Act was signed into law as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Purina, and PAWS Act Coalition members continue to advocate for federal funding of the USDA grant program for which domestic violence shelters will be able to apply.
We have also been working with some of the nation’s leaders in domestic violence services to make shelters pet-friendly — volunteering our time, labor and expertise in pet behavior to help look at this issue from a pet perspective to create pet-inclusive environments that are safe and welcoming. Strides have been made through the work of many, certainly not just us. As our knowledge increases, so does our passion for helping victims with pets become survivors.
Grab a Purple Leash
Through the Purple Leash Project, we want to be a change agent helping domestic abuse victims and their pets walk away from abuse and heal together. The Purple Leash Project is challenging us to work against a different kind of bottom line, one with the potential to change society and challenge the way that pets and pet owners are treated when they need each other most.
Together with RedRover, we are helping more domestic violence shelters across the country become pet friendly, and we are working to raise awareness of this issue.
We cannot do it alone.
I ask you to ‘Take the Lead’ on social media this October. Simply snap a photo while walking your pet, post it on social media using #PurpleLeashProject, and tag three of your friends, asking them to do the same. Explain why to drive awareness with your friends.
Visit PurpleLeashProject.com for more ways to get involved, stay informed or to donate to RedRover to support this important work.
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