Collingwood Agencies to Help Women and Pets Escape Abusive Situations

Two local organizations are partnering to help women and pets escape abusive situations. The Georgian Triangle Humane Society is partnering with My Friend’s House for an emergency boarding program as part of a pet retention initiative.

“This is an emergency boarding program that is meant to help pet owners in our community who are faced with a temporary loss of housing,” said GTHS Executive Director Sonya Reichel.

The partnership with the local women’s shelter will see the humane society assist in getting the pets of women who enter the shelter cared for during their stay.

According to a study by Dr. Amy Fitzgerald of the University of Windsor, 56 per cent of women delayed leaving an abusive relationship due to fear of a pet’s safety and 47 per cent said they would have left earlier if they could have taken a pet.

“When we let women know there might be an option for their pets, they are going to be more open about having a shelter and about coming into the shelter as well, which is really exciting, because we haven’t been able to offer that option,” said Alison Fitzgerald, executive director of My Friend’s House.

Fitzgerald said most women who come to the shelter don’t do so in an emergency rather “they tend to want to gather information, plan and so we will have a number of contacts before she makes the decision to move into the shelter.”

For the humane society, the same study suggests 89 per cent of women report their partner also abuses their pet. The pets would go into foster care and stay with families in the area. The humane society has about 40 foster parents in the area and according to program coordinator Lauren Parr they provide all of the supplies. They match the pet with the right family and monitor the pet during their stay.

“We have a really wonderful team of foster parents,” she said. “It’s a really nice network that we have.”
Fitzgerald said this program will allow those coming to the shelter to get their life back on track. She said the average stay at the shelter is about eight weeks.

“It’s comforting for the women to know that their pet is being cared for by people who know pets,” she said. “They can be completely safe so they focus on getting up and running again and get reunited with their pets.”

The pet must be approved for the program as they don’t accept pets who are prone to biting. Parr said they are always on the lookout for more foster families. She said the ideal family would be someone who loves animals and doesn’t have pets already. Parr said in the case of cats, a spare room is needed to sequester the cat while it gets used to the new surroundings.

Reichel said they also offer emergency boarding for residents who may be homeless or need to have someone care for a pet because of health reasons.

Article credit: John Edwards at

Stay informed on GTHS events, initiatives and programs. Learn how the GTHS team is serving the pets and people of the South Georgian Bay Area. Read heart-warming Happy Tails about GTHS Alumni. See a lot of really cute pictures of dogs and cats!