Santiago Supports to Help the Silent Victims of Violence

Jason Cook

Santiago Supports New Collaboration to Help the Silent Victims of Violence

December 4, 2007SAFE (Safety for Animals and Families in Emergencies) is a not-for-profit program serving Northeast Ohio that began 5 years ago with a simple conversation at Shaker Animal Hospital.  Family law attorney Leslie Gentile was relating her frustration to veterinarian James Prueter, DVM, ACVIM, about yet another case in which a client (who had left her home because of domestic violence) found her beloved pet had been severely injured by her abuser when she left. This conversation planted the seeds for the founding of SAFE.

In 2004, the Executive Director of SAFE, Lesley Ashworth, conducted a survey of 211 victims of domestic violence.  Almost 50% of those who owned animals said they would be more inclined to leave their abusive situation if foster care were available for their companion animals.  The bond between animals and humans has been well documented.  The Katrina disaster is a good example of humans unwilling to leave their companion animals in times of danger.

Dr. Prueter reminds us that animals are “the canary in the mine” often predicting violence in the home or future violence in children.  Almost all mass murderers used violence toward animals at an early age—also many of the “school yard shooters” exhibited signs of violence to animals.

The collaboration between the Cleveland Animal Protective League (CAPL) and SAFE allows for an expansion of existing services to all victims of violence who are in need of temporary support for their loyal pets.  Although SAFE works closely with local area domestic violence programs, there are a significant number of domestic violence victims who never contact a domestic violence shelter and many domestic violence shelters can not accommodate animals.  SAFE also wants to broaden their services to include all victims of violence.  A victim of rape who is scared to return to her home and cannot take her pet with her—the senior citizen who is assaulted and needs temporary hospitalization but is frantic with worry about who will care for their companion animal—these are all situations that would qualify for SAFE services.

The CAPL provides the initial medical evaluation and support for SAFE animals—after which, the animals are placed in carefully screened foster homes until they can be reunited with their family members.  “The partnership between SAFE and the Cleveland APL allows us to strengthen our commitment to helping animals-in-need while preserving an all-too-often severed human-animal bond,” said Cleveland APL Executive Director Sharon Harvey.  Harvey, who formerly served as the Executive Director of Geauga Humane Society’s Rescue Village, added, “The Cleveland APL takes great pride in the work we’re doing with SAFE as it embodies our commitment to building new, progressive, life-saving programs for the animals and people the APL serves.”

“Domestic Violence is one of the top criminal acts we see as elected officials in Northeast Ohio.  I am proud to support the partnership between the APL and SAFE.  This partnership will allow victims of Domestic Violence that have pets an opportunity to protect their beloved animals while they seek permanent shelter and guidance,” said Councilman Joe Santiago of Ward 14.

Contact Information
Lesley Ashworth, SAFE:  614-309-3905    ||||    Dr. James Prueter, SAFE:  216-561-7387
Sharon Harvey, Cleveland APL:  216-377-4616  ||||    Councilman Joe Santiago:  216-664-3706