SEATTLE - In Washington State, more than 60% of households have a pet. With one in eight Washingtonians experiencing some sort of domestic violence, many pets are often caught in the crosshairs.
For those trapped in an unhealthy or violent situation, pets may be the reason someone stays, despite the consequences.
There are few shelter options for both people and their pets, which is where Supporting Pet Owners in Transition, or SPOT, comes in.
SPOT is a program from Seattle Humane that puts pets into safe, temporary housing if their owners are experiencing housing insecurity, hospitalization or other personal crisis. The program is for owners whose only other option for care would be shelter surrender.
"We’ve had several cases of domestic violence where a person did need to leave a violent situation, and find temporary housing for their pet," said Brandon Macz, the public relations and social media specialist at Seattle Humane.
SPOT will place the pet in an experienced foster family for up to 90 days, instead of taking the pet in and re-homing it.
Macz said the communication with the owner and the foster is open, and the program is discrete-- so a pet won't be featured anywhere on their website or social media without explicit permission from the owner.
Once the owner feels safe enough or in a stable situation, their pet is returned to them.
Around 50% of people experiencing domestic violence surveyed said they fear their abusive partner will harm or kill their pet, and just under 30% say they have already had a pet fall victim to their abuser, according to the Urban Resource Institute.
According to the Urban Resource Institute, only 250 domestic violence shelters nationwide allow pets, which means some people will stay in unhealthy situations if they think they will be separated from their pets.
"A big part of our work here at Seattle Humane, especially over the last several years, has been trying to keep people and their pets together," said Macz.
In addition to SPOT, the "Safe Haven Mapping Project" will show local housing options that will allow you to bring your pet.
Domestic violence experts recommend having a go-bag ready for your pet in the event that you need to leave a situation quickly.
The bag should include:
- Proof of ownership
- Vet documents/vaccination records
- Any medicine your pet may need
Once you are in a new place and away from the abuser, experts recommend finding a new vet for your pet, and don't let them outside alone or take them on walks alone.
If you need assistance or would like to learn more, contact Seattle Humane at (425) 649-7561 or firstname.lastname@example.org.