This report offers important knowledge regarding the barriers for individuals leaving situations involving interpersonal violence and abuse, who have concern for animal care and safekeeping. The information gathered throughout this project offers increased knowledge and insight, and has instilled hope that much can be done to assist individuals leaving situations of violence and abuse to ensure the safety of both humans and animals. A collaborative spirit among animal welfare agencies and human service organizations is imperative, which will lead to positive change within the community at large.
The project followed a mixed methods approach, consisting of both quantitative and qualitative portions. The first portion of the project took place between July 2014 and August 2015, and involved gathering online quantitative questionnaire responses. Responses were obtained from 39 animal welfare representatives and 56 human service representatives in both urban and rural regions of Saskatchewan. Service providers were asked about their experience with working with individuals leaving situations of interpersonal violence and abuse who had concern for animal care and safekeeping.
The second portion of the project took place between October and December 2015. Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with nine participants representing the knowledge and experience of human service and animal welfare providers. Utilizing thematic analysis, a number of important themes emerged. The quotes illustrated throughout the body of this report reflect the devastating barriers that individuals are faced with when seeking refuge from violence and abuse while having concern for animal safety and safekeeping.
Based on the information gathered, a list of recommendations was created:
Develop education and training workshops regarding the connection between interpersonal violence and abuse and concern for animal safekeeping to human service organizations, animal welfare agencies, and the general public.
Establish partnerships between animal welfare agencies and human service organizations to better provide services.
Provide information about services available for both animal welfare and human service providers in urban and rural areas.
Train service providers in supporting individuals to plan for animal safekeeping when leaving situations of violence and abuse.
Create a list of resources and services for animal care and safekeeping currently offered within Saskatchewan (e.g., develop a resource book, provincial registry).
Among domestic violence services, ensure that the intake process involves asking whether or not animal abuse is occurring/has occurred within the home.
Formulate policies among animal welfare and human service organizations, to ensure a clear understanding of what each sector is responsible for. Establishing guidelines will remove ambiguity that may arise when working together.
Generate specific and focused action plans for individuals leaving situations of interpersonal violence and abuse who are concerned about animal care and safekeeping, in both urban and rural regions of Saskatchewan.
Funding and research expertise for this project was provided by the Community Research and Action Fund through the Community Research Unit, Faculty of Arts at the University of Regina. These resources enabled our team to establish key groundwork in identifying issues and potential solutions to providing animal safekeeping supports for people who are leaving abusive relationships in Saskatchewan.
Frances Wach from the Saskatchewan SPCA and Tracy Knutson from STOPS to Violence will lead a discussion on The Link: Interpersonal Violence and Abuse and Animal Safekeeping at the Animal Welfare Conference in Saskatoon from September 23-25, 2016.