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C.A.R.E.4Paws offering safe haven program for pets exposed to domestic violence
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C.A.R.E.4Paws offering safe haven program for pets exposed to domestic violence

Isabelle Gullo, executive director, C.A.R.E.4Paws

Isabelle Gullo, executive director of C.A.R.E.4Paws, holding Eddies in this photo taken in January, said her organization has increased the amount of pet food it is supplying to those in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

In response to emotional and financial stress caused by shelter-at-home orders relating to COVID-19, C.A.R.E.4Paws' Safe Haven program has joined forces with agency partners to ensure domestic violence victims have a safe place for their pets when leaving an abusive situation.

The organization's executive director and co-founder, Isabelle Gullo, said that family violence affects not just adults and children, but pets as well – putting them in harm's way.

“Now more than ever, we need to provide a safety net for those in need of support,” said Gullo. “Safe Haven will protect and care for pets until they can be reunited with their loving owners. We hope this encourages community members to reach out for help and seek safety with their companion animals.”

Gullo said that family violence statistics were staggering even before shelter-at-home orders were enforced, and now with the added isolation and lack of social support, risk of domestic violence has increased.

She said that 85% of women who were surveyed upon entering domestic violence shelters, reported that their pets had been threatened, tortured or killed by their partners. And for many victims, that may prevent them from leaving out of fear something will happen to the animal.

Pet owners who are exposed to domestic violence can seek emergency shelter with their companion animals through Domestic Violence Solutions (DVS) and C.A.R.E.4Paws, who will arrange for immediate, anonymous foster care or boarding of their pets.

Jan Campbell, executive director of Domestic Violence Solutions, said the partnership between Domestic Violence Solutions and C.A.R.E.4Paws has become an essential part of the services offered to shelter clients who have pets.

“Knowing that their beloved pets are safely and confidentially housed helps to mitigate trauma suffered by domestic violence survivors and their families,” Campbell said.

She explained that pets enrolled at Safe Haven are sheltered with love and have access to veterinary care in C.A.R.E.4Paws’ mobile veterinary clinic, as well as behavioral training if necessary.

Other critical Safe Haven partners include the Animal Welfare Alliance of Santa Barbara County — Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP), Dog Adoption Welfare Group (DAWG) and Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society — as well as Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office Victim-Witness Assistance Program, whose advocates are trained to help victims of abuse.

For direct support, victims and law enforcement can contact C.A.R.E.4Paws’ Safe Haven program at safehaven@care4paws.org or call 805-335-7524. For more information about the program, visit care4paws.org/safehaven.

A quick guide to all services provided to pet owners in need during COVID-19, as well as ways in which community members can help others during this crisis, can be viewed at care4paws.org/petstrong.

Lisa André covers Valley Life for Santa Ynez Valley News. 

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