Many women at risk of domestic abuse are reluctant to leave their home and seek help at a women’s shelter if it means leaving their pet behind with the abuser. SafePet helps women leave abusive partners by providing temporary housing and care for their pets.
- 89 per cent of abused women say their partner also abused a pet.
- 56 per cent of women delayed leaving an abusive relationship due to fear for a pet's safety.
- 47 per cent say they would have left a relationship earlier if they could have taken a pet with them.
- 33 per cent say they considered returning to an abuser because their partner had the pet.
(2017 University of Windsor study)
How it works
Volunteer pet foster parents from across the province offer to take in pets that belong to women who are residents of Violence Against Women shelters. Volunteer veterinarians help by being a neutral location where the pet owner can drop off their pet before staying in a Violence Against Women shelter. Pet foster parents pick the pet up after the veterinarian has completed an exam and any needed vaccinations.
Women at risk of abuse
SafePet is offered in communities across Ontario either through volunteering women's shelters or third-party volunteer-led organizations. The program is offered at the discretion of each community based on available resources. If you're a woman seeking safety, call the Assaulted Women's Help Line at 1.866.863.0511 (TTY 1.866.863.7868) or call a local women's shelter to inquire about participation. Keep in mind that not all shelters or communities offer this service.
OVMA is aware of some communities in which sheltering is available.
OVMA-affiliated SafePet Programs:
Sheltering Programs not affiliated with OVMA:
OSPCA Newmarket Area
Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society
Pet Protect Guelph
Interval House of Ottawa
Halton Women's Place
Information for Violence Against Women (VAW) shelters
SafePet is a voluntary program. Information on the SafePet Program has been mailed to all Ontario VAW shelters by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Interested VAW shelters can sign up by notifying Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH) or Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes (AOcVF), and they will be added to the participants list. OVMA, OAITH and AOcVF will provide interested VAW shelters and veterinary clinics with a comprehensive program guide, tools, and templates in order to launch SafePet in their communities.
Information for OVMA members
If you're an OVMA member veterinarian and are looking for information on the program, see the SafePet Program Guide (PDF) for OVMA veterinary clinics.
Potential pet foster parents
If you want to volunteer for the program as a pet foster parent, contact a local Violence Against Women shelter in your community.
Potential local community organizers
If you are interested in creating a SafePet network in your municipality, SafePet Ottawa is dedicated to sharing their model.
In the News
SafePet program helps keep pets safe while victims of abuse seek help
Women with pets more likely to endure domestic abuse, study finds
Helping women and their pets escape abusive relationships
Saving two lives: Ottawa woman honoured for creating foster network for pets of abused women
The SafePet Program was designed by OVMA, the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH), and Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes (AOcVF) and is administered by Ontario’s Violence Against Women (VAW) Shelters.
By working together, we can help end violence in our communities.
An OVMA Community Relations Program