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Veterinary technician Brigett Baker moves a feral cat from one pet carrier to another while working at the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin in Janesville. The humane society is helping to start a new program that provides foster care for pets of domestic violence victims.

JANESVILLE

Fleeing domestic violence presents more challenges for survivors than packing their bags.

Survivors have to consider who and what gets left behind, which sometimes prevents them from escaping toxic environments.

The Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center and Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin want to alleviate one of the greatest challenges survivors face when fleeing abuse: finding care for their pets.

The organizations in January will launch a program to foster pets of domestic violence survivors, said Kelsey Hood-Christenson, director of survivor empowerment services at the center.

It is the first of its kind in Rock County, Hood-Christenson said.

Many survivors who arrive at the center express pain about having to leave pets behind with abusers. Hood-Christenson suspects many other survivors have not gone to the shelter because they didn’t want to leave their animals behind.

Pets provide comfort and love during life’s worst moments, Hood-Christenson said.

Homes plagued with domestic violence present increased risks of child and animal abuse. Abusers can further hurt their victims by using pets as leverage against them or inflicting harm on the pets, Hood-Christenson said.

The new program will offer foster homes for cats and dogs for up to 90 days while survivors work with the domestic violence survivor center’s staff to meet their goals and form a path to stability, Hood-Christenson said.

Staff at the domestic violence survivor center and the Janesville YWCA will contact the humane society when survivors seek refuge for themselves and their pets.

The humane society will take in pets through their standard intake process and match the pets with a foster home, said DeShawn Christianson, assistant executive director of development and fundraising at the humane society.

The humane society already has a strong network of foster homes but is looking for new families to foster in this program, Christianson said.

The survivor’s and the foster family’s information is kept confidential to preserve privacy and safety, Christianson said.

Those interested in becoming foster parents will participate in the humane society’s standard 30-minute training session for fostering in addition to training from Hood-Christenson on domestic violence, she said.

The humane society will provide foster homes with supplies needed to care for animals, including food, Christianson said.

The program is funded by a grant from Red Rover, a national organization that provides relief for animals in crisis, Hood-Christenson said.

The humane society and domestic violence center modeled the program after Dane County’s Sheltering Animals of Abuse Victims program, Christianson said.

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