One morning in her car, Bonnie Best heard a radio program about women entering domestic violence shelters. Best, a pet sitter and a lifelong animal lover with five dogs, asked herself, "What happens to these people’s pets?"
She called the Arizona Humane Society and found out that there’s a program for animals that might otherwise be left behind when a person is fleeing abuse. Project SafeHouse began in 1998 and gives pets a temporary place to park their paws when their owners enter domestic abuse shelters.
This led the Gilbert woman to wonder how she could help families fostering pets.
"My sister was a foster home for puppies," Best said, "and the foster homes pay for everything for the care of the pets."
So she organized a pet food and supply drive to help people helping pets. "They’ve already given up their time and their home to these animals," she said.
From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at Bashas’ on the corner of Baseline and Greenfield roads, Best Pet Sitting will collect donations such as food, toys, cat and dog collars and leashes, blankets, beds, kitty litter, scratching posts, bird seed and more.
Melissa Gable, spokesperson for the Humane Society, said Project SafeHouse started because they learned many people were staying in abusive situations because they didn’t want to leave pets behind — especially because abusive partners often injure animals, too, or threaten them. "We found the abuser was using the animal as a way to get back at the victim," Gable said. The partner might say, "If you leave, I’m going to hurt the animal."
Gable added that the Humane Society wanted to place these pets in homes because it eases the transition, particularly if the animal is scared and upset.
"These animals have already come from a potentially stressful situation where there could be yelling" or abuse, she said, "and we didn’t want to put them in another stressful situation."
While the program is open to anyone entering a domestic abuse shelter, the Humane Society urges people to check with family and friends first. The shelter can keep animals for 30 days, though they can be flexible.
Fancy a feline or four?
The Arizona Humane Society’s Project SafeHouse program places pets in foster homes temporarily when their owners enter domestic abuse shelters. Pet parents are relieved that their animals will be kept safe until they get their lives back together.
But for Laura Maddock, that’s going to be a much greater struggle than for most. In October 2002, a bullet flew through the window of her home and lodged in her spine. Laura is now physically disabled and cannot care for her four cats, Shadow, Hamlet, Tigger and Cinnamon.
The Humane Society is looking for a permanent home for all four. The cats range in age from 4 to 12 and have been together for years. They’re all long-haired and need daily brushing, but they’re healthy, good with children and friendly — though shy. All tested negative for feline leukemia and are current on their vaccinations. They eat a special diet.
You can call (602) 395-3874 to adopt all four cats for the price of one ($75) through the Humane Society.