Victims of domestic violence face many obstacles that keep them from escaping danger. There’s one challenge that might not have occurred to you, but Karen Matson knows it well.
“We often hear about people who won’t leave bad situations because they don’t want their animals to be left behind,” says Matson, executive director at the Broome County Humane Society.
Staff at the Humane Society started working some time ago with RISE, the Broome County nonprofit that offers a domestic violence shelter and related services. “For a while we were doing it without funding, because it’s the right thing to do,” Matson says. “We said, let’s help these people get out and give them less to worry about, because they know that their pets are safe.”
The Humane Society gets a referral from the RISE domestic violence shelter about once a month on average. “They make arrangements to get the individual out of a bad situation, and we have an agreement that gives them access to our facility 24 hours a day,” Matson says. That agreement is necessary because people may be removed from dangerous situations at all hours of the night. Staff from the RISE shelter deliver the animals to the Humane Society’s animal shelter and get them safely situated there, she says. “And then we take over the next day.”
Under its agreement with RISE, the animal shelter boards dogs and cats for 30 days or more, as needed. During that time, staff provide veterinary services and have the animals spayed or neutered if the owner hasn’t already done so. In 2017, the Women’s Fund helped to defray the cost of all those services with a $3,000 grant. “It relieves some of that burden and goes back into helping members of our community,” Matson says.
The Humane Society would gladly take referrals from other sources who know of people with similar emergency needs, Matson says. “We would be willing to work with any organization.”