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SPCA pilot program takes in pets of people fleeing domestic violence

A pilot program called Paws for Support will see pets owned by people fleeing domestic violence taken care of medically and then temporarily placed in a foster home. - File
A pilot program called Paws for Support will see pets owned by people fleeing domestic violence taken care of medically and then temporarily placed in a foster home. - File
HALIFAX, N.S. —

There are many challenges to overcome for a person attempting to flee domestic violence.

One of the lesser known problems is what to do with pets as you transition into a safe situation. 

“It has been shown they will delay leaving a situation for fear of what do they do with their pets,” said Heather Woodin, provincial director of programs and administration for the Nova Scotia SPCA.  “So this actually enables them to feel comfortable in leaving situations when they choose to do so.”

 The SPCA has received $25,000 from PetSmart Charities of Canada for a pilot program in Halifax Regional Municipality called Paws for Support. The money will go toward costs such as medical care for the pets turned over by their owners. 

“A lot of times they may not have seen a vet recently so they’ll get vaccines, they’ll get spayed or neutered,” Woodin said in a recent interview. 

After making sure the animals are healthy and ready for a temporary home, they will go to a volunteer foster family pre-approved by the SPCA.

“(They) are committing to take on owned-pets for this duration of time, they’re committing to keeping the pets in their care very confidential,” Woodin explained. “There can be a lot of sensitive situations that are going on, they’re not going to post to social media (photos of the foster pets).”

The SPCA is looking for 30 families to volunteer as foster pet caretakers for the one-year pilot program, who can apply here. 

Besides veterinary care, the SPCA will absorb all costs for food, bedding and toys during the foster period, which likely will last between 30 and 90 days, Woodin said. 

This unusual foster program has been put in place in other parts of Canada but it’s a first for Nova Scotia,.

“We’re seeing that a lot of the owner-surrender situations were coming sort of as urgent re-homing needs and a lot of these folks communicated to us that they were really just in a temporary bind and their pets gave them a lot of comfort when they were going through a difficult situation. It really came across to us from the public communicating to us that this is something that was needed.”

The SPCA is co-ordinating with shelter organizations such as Alice House and Bryony House to make sure their clients know about the program, which will be evaluated in a year. 
“At this point we’re just looking to see how it goes and what the need is and what we’re going to need to fund-raise to continue the program past that year," Woodin said. 

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