Nfld. & Labrador

SPCA program gives pets a place to go when owners leave unsafe situations

"The program is 100 per cent necessary," said Christa Skinner of the SPCA, which finds temporary foster homes for pets in need.

Program, launched in June, helps residents of Mount Pearl and beyond

Animals have come to the program from other parts of the province, not just Mount Pearl. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

The SPCA's new program serving Mount Pearl residents is the latest in the province to offer housing for the pets of people leaving situations with intimate partner violence and less than three months into the program, its necessity is clear.

In working with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to set up the program, said Christa Skinner, she and others involved learned that 59 per cent of victims of domestic violence have a pet, and they delay leaving their situations because of worry about that pet.

"Now that we're in the thick of it, the program is officially launched, the demand is definitely there," said Skinner, the SPCA's manager of fund development. "The program is 100 per cent necessary."

People often can't bring their pets with them when they're in a shelter, Skinner said. Through this program, a pet can be temporarily cared for in a foster home until its owner is ready to take it in again.

So far, eight animals have been a part of the SPCA program — four cats and four dogs. (Katie Breen/CBC)

So far the program has taken in eight animals, she said four dogs and four cats. And though the program is officially for residents of Mount Pearl, some of the animals have come from owners in other parts of the province, including as far out as central Newfoundland.

"Victims of abuse, they live everywhere," Skinner said. "It's not just confined to a certain geographical area."

Pets are cared for in foster homes

The City of St. John's, along with the RNC and the Iris Kirby House, provides shelter for the pets of St. John's residents leaving situations with intimate partner violence. When the RNC and the Iris Kirby House approached the SPCA of St. John's to offer a similar service to residents of Mount Pearl, the non-profit animal organization quickly got on board, Skinner said. 

Meetings with the RNC, Iris Kirby House and Mount Pearl began in spring 2018, Skinner said, and the program officially launched in mid-June of this year. The program is confidential, she said, and the pets get any medical care they need.

"That family looks after the pet like it's their own, and then once the person who owns the pet is ready to take them back we're contacted and then we make arrangements to return the animal to its owner," she said.

The RNC in Corner Brook also works with the SPCA in that area to help find temporary housing for pets of people leaving situations with domestic violence. 

Having seen the need with their own program, Skinner said, the SPCA hopes to find the funding to expand it to other parts of the province.

Christa Skinner of the SPCA says the necessity of the program is evident, only a few weeks into its launch. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"We know what the demand is here in this area," she said. "We can only imagine that it's similar in other areas of the province."

So far most of the pets in the program are still being cared for by the foster families, Skinner said. The SPCA plans to work with the RNC to get feedback on the value of the program for participants, but she says having it available would be of value.

"I can only imagine that based on where they are at that point in their life, any help would be a relief."

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