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Make a pet safety plan when domestic violence occurs

Women who are divorcing or leaving a relationship due to domestic violence are often advised to develop a safety plan for themselves and their children. However, those who have beloved pets may also want to devise a pet safety plan for them as well.

Sometimes, victims of domestic violence want to leave abusive relationships, but their circumstances make them feel leaving immediately is not an option. If you believe that it is more prudent to wait for a more opportune time to escape from your abuser, consider the following for your pet safety plan:

-- Carry the telephone number of the closest 24-hour emergency vet clinic with you.

-- Abusers sometimes withhold financial support from their victims. Make sure that you have an emergency stash of pet medicines and food on hand if this occurs.

-- Make sure that the ownership of your animals is never in doubt by leaving a paper trail. Your dog or cat should be licensed to you if that is an option, and all of their medical records should be only in your name.

Once the decision to leave has been made, prepare for your pet's safety by:

-- Arranging safe, temporary shelter for your pet where your abuser cannot get access.

-- Pack supplies for your animals that include ownership documents (shelter adoption papers, purchase receipts, license fees, etc.), medicine, food, copies of vaccination and veterinary records, collar and leash, rabies tag, pet carrier or kennel, bedding and toys.

Abusers often retaliate against their victims by torturing or killing their pets. Once you have left your abuser and been reunited with your pet, do the following:

-- Don't let your pet roam alone outside.

-- Keep the animal inside as much as possible, especially when you are not home.

-- Never walk or exercise your pet by yourself.

-- Choose a different route to walk your dog.

-- Pick another veterinarian and/or groomer.

If you have concerns that your abuser will harm your pet, ask your divorce attorney to petition the court for a protective order that will include your pet.

Source: awionline.org, "Safety Planning for Pets of Domestic Violence Victims," accessed June 04, 2015

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