Helping Pets + Domestic Abuse Victims

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I picked up a copy of the November 2010 issue of The Oprah Magazine last weekend to read while I burned off a few calories on the stairclimber at my gym. As I readied for my stairclimbing blitz, I noted I was flanked by a creepy sweaty man to my right and an overly primped super-cougar to my left. Within moments however, I had all forgotten about my odd neighbors as I became riveted and simultaneously choked up by Susan Hauser’s extremely moving story about a unique nonprofit organization called “Sheltering Animals of Abuse Victims” or SAAV, founded by Pamela Hart and Megan Senatori.

Helping Victims of Domestic Abuse by Helping Their Pets

Domestic violence and animal abuse are often closely linked. Various studies have documented that nearly 48% of domestic violence victims say they would have fled their abusive situation sooner only if they had a safe place to leave their dog or cat. Most shelters for battered women do not allow animals and more than half of women in crisis centers who own pets report that their spouses abused or even killed their animals, as they were unable to take their pet when they fled from their homes.

Understanding the wrenching dilemma facing domestic abuse victims, Hart and Senatori founded SAAV because they did not want domestic abuse victims to ever have to "choose" between their own safety and the safety and well-being of a beloved animal companion. A Madison, Wisconsin-based organization, The SAAV Program is a network of temporary homes, shelters, farms and ranches, all in confidential locations. 

Since 2003, The SAAV Program has placed approximately 86 animals into temporary, confidential shelter while the animal's family was staying in a domestic abuse shelter or living with a relative or friend who could not also house the animal. The SAAV Program has provided domestic abuse victims with confidential shelter for a variety of beloved animal companions, including: dogs, cats, turkeys, turtles, birds, horses, goats, iguanas, and even a little hamster named “Faith.”

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How You Can Help

The SAAV Program has also assisted countless human and animal victims of domestic abuse by raising community awareness about the link between domestic abuse and animal cruelty and the importance of animal abuse prosecutions as a means to stop the cycle of abuse. In addition to providing shelter services, they also hope to inspire others to make a difference in their own community and are happy to serve as a resource. For more information, to volunteer or to join their network of foster homes by becoming a SAAV foster parent, visit or email them at



Article reprint courtesy of Animal Planet's The Daily Treat with Janet McCulley

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