Leaving an abusive relationship is not an easy thing to do. For the victims of interpersonal violence who own animals, the decision to leave can be exceptionally difficult. 


Pets are seen as part of the family, making it hard for many victims of abuse to leave the home knowing their pet is left behind. Not only can animals be abused, they can be used as a tool for the abuser to control and punish the victim. 


Considerations for pet owners when developing a safety plan  


A safety plan is a guide to leaving abuse. The plan includes what to take with you, where to go, and who to contact for help. When developing a safety plan, it is important to consider ways to protect any animals that may be involved. 


  • Try to remove the animals from the situation as soon as possible.

  • Ask friends or trusted family members to care for your pet/pets temporarily.

  • Gather supplies that might be useful if you have to leave quickly with your pet: a carrier, a collar and leash, medications.

  • If you are planning to stay at an emergency shelter, explain to them you are concerned about your pet's safety. They may be able to assist you in finding a safe place for your animal.

  • Some animal shelters may be able to provide temporary pet care or help arrange for foster care. Talk with your nearest SPCA or Humane Society to see if they can assist.

  • Contact a kennel to make arrangements to have your pet boarded. Kennels will require proof of vaccinations so remember to bring a recent veterinary invoice with you. (Your veterinarian may be able to supply a full vaccination record directly to the boarding kennel, upon request.)

  • If your animal is being threatened or harmed, keep any evidence you may have (such as photos, emails, or voice mail messages) to hand over to police.

  • Any receipts or paperwork you have related to the purchase or care of your pet can be useful if you have to prove ownership. 

  • Report animal abuse to the proper authorities. They will investigate the situation and take appropriate action. You can make an anonymous complaint.


Animal safekeeping programs


The victims of interpersonal violence and abuse may stay in a violent situation in order to protect their animals. Some victims risk their own lives by returning home in order to feed and care for their animals. 


Animal safekeeping programs help promote the safety and wellbeing of individuals leaving a violent situation by providing short-term temporary care for their animals. Options for animal safekeeping may include:  


  • Foster-based programs

Foster-based programs rely on volunteer caregivers to provide short-term care of pets while the owners are staying in domestic violence shelters or transition housing. 


  • “Pet-friendly” domestic violence shelters 

A limited number of domestic violence shelters and transition houses in Canada allow victims to bring their pets with them. (However, there are currently no Saskatchewan domestic violence shelters that accept pets.) Depending on the facility, pets may be cared for in the victim’s room, or in a kennel at the domestic violence shelter. 


  • Partnerships with an animal shelter

Domestic violence shelters may collaborate on a formal or informal basis with local animal shelters to provide temporary care for pets owned by the victims of interpersonal violence and abuse. 


Pet safekeeping in Saskatchewan


A limited number of pet safekeeping programs are available in Saskatchewan. These include:


  • The Saskatoon SPCA Pet Safekeeping Program assists the victims of domestic violence with the short-term care of companion animals. For further information, please contact 306-374-7387.


  • New Hope Dog Rescue's Animal Safekeeping (ASK) Program provides free care for pets owned by the victims of interpersonal violence. The foster homes have received specialized training to meet the needs of pets coming from homes where there has been violence or abuse. Click here to learn more about the ASK Program.


  • Established by the Swift Current SPCA, the ASK (Animal Safekeeping) Program assists local victims of domestic violence and their pets. Service is available on a referral basis through Southwest Crisis Service. For more information, phone 306-778-3386.  

  • In the Melfort area, the North East SPCA works with North East Outreach and Support Services to care for pets owned by the victims of domestic violence. To learn more about the Safe Haven program, contact 306-752-7722. 


Learn more about safety planning and animal safekeeping programs at