When the only way out is through, you still might need a place to stop and heal along the way. Women and children fleeing domestic violence ( DV ) situations frequently have no time to plan their escape. The decision is quick and immediate, many leaving with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Add a beloved pet to the equation, and the difficulty becomes even greater.
The Purple Paw Project is a unique program serving Utah for almost 2 years. In that time 27 families and 39 pets have been aided, receiving shelter, any general or critical medical care, but most of all, the ability to finally end the cycle of violence and sense of entrapment. The Purple Paw gives women and children a place to house their pets while staying in DV shelters. Friends of Animals Utah works side by side with caseworkers, DV advocates, and police departments to assist families in making safe and smooth transitions to new and better lives. This would be impossible were there not available housing for the families’ dogs and cats. The women report a sense of helplessness, feeling trapped and hopeless when faced with finding temporary pet housing prior to the project’s inception. Now that obstacle to escape no longer exists.
This year we added additional foster families to meet the increased requests for assistance in housing these pets. Furthermore, we found many needed the stability of a familiar family setting as they had been traumatized previously. The dogs and cats require love and attention daily from specially trained fosters who could gently earn back their trust and teach them to be playful, friendly pets again. Visitation by owners is still a vital part of the Purple Paw Project and we make arrangements for owners to spend time with their pets whenever possible.
All pets are spayed or neutered, receive an update on vaccines, and any other medical care they might require. One dog required emergency care to save a damaged and painful eye. Due to our help, the dog regained full use of the eye and complete vision was restored. Several pets needed care for gastrointestinal disease secondary to stress and poor nutrition. This included IV fluids, medication and round the clock nursing in our on site medical suite.
While anonymity is of paramount importance, we do occasionally receive word from families once they have relocated. We heard last month from someone who let us know that she and her dog were safe in another state and that she was taking her dog to be groomed! She was thankful for the opportunity that Purple Paw gave her to get away from a dangerous situation with her beloved pet and wanted us to know that her life and the life of her dog was once again happy and looking positive.
The first of year of service cost more than $50,000 to operate. The cost to families was NOTHING; free of charge. No one was turned away. Through donations and grant funding we continue to operate this critically needed program at Friends of Animals Utah and save the lives of those needing our help.
Executive Director, FOAU