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After the Bar

Public Service

Helping People and Pets Escape Abuse

Sheri Madsen

Helping People and Pets Escape Abuse

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As many as 71 percent of pet-owning women entering domestic violence shelters report that their abuser injured, killed, or threatened family pets for revenge or psychological control. This threat often serves as a barrier to survivors leaving a dangerous situation, with minimal resources available at shelters. Breaking down this safety barrier requires financial support, awareness, and assistance. Young lawyers need to understand the often-invisible barriers present in domestic violence situations, which are ultimately crucial to helping survivors escape abuse.

Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence

Many people have never considered the link between domestic violence and animal abuse. Abusers may target pets to maintain terror or fright, gain more power and control, eliminate a source of support and comfort, and force the family to return home. Because domestic violence perpetrators often target pets, up to 48 percent of domestic violence victims reported delaying leaving their abusers because they feared what would happen to their pets. Some survivors have even reported living in their cars with their pets rather than leaving them behind. Unfortunately, only about 15 percent of domestic violence shelters currently allow pets onsite.

RedRover is looking to change that. Our mission is to bring animals out of crisis and into care and strengthen the human-animal bond. Through our domestic violence assistance programs, we help survivors and their pets escape abuse together—so they can heal together. The benefits of creating a pet program are abundant and include eliminating a barrier to safety, reinforcing the human-animal bond, and facilitating healing. RedRover does this through Safe Housing GrantsSafe Escape Grants, and raising awareness.

Safe Housing Grants

Our Safe Housing grants offer nonprofit domestic violence shelters and animal organizations various options to care for animal victims of abuse. Grants of up to $60,000 are awarded twice a year to shelters that qualify. Funding may be used to build or renovate spaces dedicated to housing survivors’ pets, create a foster program to care for survivors’ pets, pay for temporary boarding for survivors’ pets, or a combination of services that will best serve the community. Grant funds may also be used for routine veterinary care, emergency veterinary care, and pet deposits.

Since 2012, RedRover has awarded 151 Safe Housing grants to shelters in 44 states, totaling more than $1.7 million and resulting in more than 387,200 safe nights for pets. Additionally, Safe Housing grants have funded the first pet-friendly domestic violence shelter in nine states.

Purple Leash Project

In 2019, RedRover and Purina joined forces to create the Purple Leash Project to help raise awareness about the lack of pet-friendly domestic violence shelters. Our Purple Leash Project grants are an extension of Safe Housing grants. Together, our goal is to help ensure that 25 percent of domestic violence shelters are pet-friendly by 2025.

Safe Escape Grants

We know there is no one-size-fits-all approach and that every shelter may not have the ability to accommodate pets onsite. That’s why we also offer Safe Escape grants, which cover pet boarding costs for up to 90 days while a survivor is at a domestic violence shelter. Since 2007, RedRover has awarded 1,086 Safe Escape grants in 40 states, totaling more than $792,000 and providing 45,988 safe nights of boarding for pets.

How to Get Involved

We believe that pets are family and that no one should have to choose between their safety and their beloved pet. By offering a variety of options and flexibility in implementing a pet program, we are confident there is a solution for every community.

There are several ways you can become involved to help raise awareness about this issue:

  1. Be vocal and spread awareness. Advocate for your neighbors with pets who may be struggling with abuse by raising awareness about the lack of pet-friendly options for domestic violence victims. Visit to stay informed of all the ways to get involved. You can also post your support for the mission on social media using #PurpleLeashProject to take a stand for pets and people who deserve to escape abuse and heal together.
  2. Ask your local DV shelter how you can help. Reach out to your local domestic violence shelter to see how you might be able to help the survivors in their care. Find out if your local shelter accepts pets now or is interested in resources to become pet-friendly (if so, tell them about RedRover’s grants). There are many things domestic violence shelters may need to provide for the survivors they serve, from volunteers to donations of clothing, diapers, toys, and other comfort items for people and pets.
  3. Donate to RedRover’s domestic violence assistance programs. Visit to learn more.