Purple Paw-Helps Domestic Violence Victims & Pets

by Friends of Animals Utah

Some would argue that as far as ferrets go, Stinker wasn’t stinky at all. Truth is he really was until we bathed him! This little fellow was an accredited therapy pet for a 4-year-old boy who was suffering from trauma caused by domestic abuse.

Stinker’s mom, a victim of domestic abuse, made a very difficult decision to place him in Friends of Animals Utah's care when she went into a DV shelter that could not accomodate this pet. The moment of separation was heart wrenching and very scary for all involved. We were concerned about the little boy’s reaction. Thankfully, the shelter advocates and the FOAU representative were able to convey to the little boy that Stinker was going to happy, safe and very loved. This was just temporary we assured him.

Unfortunately circumstances changed and Stinker’s family had to evacuate under police protection to a new out of state shelter. The journey would be long and difficult for a the mom and her kids. She made the ultimate decision to relinquish Stinker to us and allow us to find him a forever loving new home, which we successfully quickly did. Yes, it is somewhat a sad ending since we always anticipate happy reunions.

We were subsequently informed that the little boy is doing well and in a much better place and has been able to replace the love he had for Stinker with another little pet. FOAU’s mission is not to guarantee happy endings; we provide the families of domestic abuse with the ability to escape their circumstance. We offer them the time they need to review their options. We provide them with the peace of mind to make the decisions that is right for them. And we fully support their decision whatever that may be.

Your donations allowed us to be patient.  
Several months ago, Friends of Animals Utah was called to pick up a cat at DV shelter in Utah. As with all pick-ups this event was sad but it was even more difficult than usual. The cat's mom (let's call her Mary), had just been released from hospital. She had been beaten severely.  I was warned that the cat I was picking up (let's call her Snuggles) may have suffered some injuries too.

Mary was clearly still in physical pain and under the influence of pain meds. She cried as I took Snuggles away, she reassured Snuggles that they would be reunited soon.  It was heart-wrenching.  I admit it, I cried too.
Snuggles was examined by our veterinarian and was cleared from physical problems but she was depressed and very scared.  Our caregivers took extra time to comfort and reassure her.  Soon we found a foster home for her and there she thrived.  She became the cat Mary knew and adored.
Mary called me almost daily at first for updates and reassurance.  I would send her photos of a happy Snuggles.  Her calls however gradually became less frequent and I also noticed a change in her spirit.  Then one day she said something that shocked me. She asked that we find Snuggles a new home.  She did not think she would be able to take her back, ever.  My heart sank.  I felt like we all failed Snuggles, this was not the way it was meant to be.
I told Mary "NO".  Snuggles was happy and secure and so she could take all the time she needed to get better and reassess her situation.  Months went by again, Mary still unsure if she could take Snuggles back.  Slowly, Mary got stronger, especially when her abuser was sentenced to jail. She felt free and able to start life over again - with Snuggles. 
I will be bringing bringing Snuggles to her in the next few days.  I know Mary will thank me profusely for all that FAOU did for her and Snuggles.  I will tell her that is is really thanks to you - our generous donors.  You make it possible for us to be patient and make happy ending happen.
I'm sure I will cry again, tears of joy this time!
Purple Paw Photo
Purple Paw Photo

With Friends of Animals Utah's Purple Paw Project continued success, the greater is the demand to provide more services.

In partnership with local and nearby shelters, we currently provide rescue and boarding of cats and dogs to numerous survivors of domestic violence.  Women and their children need time to focus on their recovery and time to build a new life. While Domestic Violence Shelters are there to assist these victim every step of the way, FOAU is there to help the animals.  Animals are victims too and also need a lot of rehabilitation. 

Our reputation for providing excellent care of the animals we are entrusted with and our willingness to go the extra mile (literally) to colllaborate with shelters and their clients has grown.  Word is getting out that Friends of Animals Utah is there to help - always.  We are proud of this and wish to continue to provide extraordinary service and hope to accomodate this incresing demand but we need help.

Our biggest challenge at this time in being able to expand our network is transportation.  We need to recruit and train more volunteers to assist with the picking up and delivering of the pets.  We are looking at a variety of ways to facilitate this. We also need more boarding space and to recruit and train more foster families.

With your help and generous donations, we can acheive our goal of expanding our Purple Paw services to a greater geographic area and thereby help more women, children and pets in need.


Most shelters for Domestic Violence Victims do not, or cannot, accept pets. 

Women in the turmoil because of a domestic abuse situation are faced with unbearable decisions.  Saving themselves is the easy part of the equation, but what about their children, what about their pets?  We all know that pets are family members; children consider them siblings and emotionally rely on that unconditional love and affection. Women without children can have an even deeper relationship with their pets and have the strong nurturing need to protect them. Confused,  women often remain in the abusive, life threatening situation to save their pet.  Unfortunately, this is inevitably a devastating outcome for all concerned, the woman, children… and the pet.

Friends of Animals Utah’s (FOAU) Purple Paw program offers the solution that can literally save lives. FOAU partners with all Utah Domestic Violence shelters to provide safe, loving and protective care for these pets.  We give free medical care, tons of love and attention from our caregivers and unlimited visitation for the women and their children.  We take the pets when the women seek shelter until the time they are ready to be reuinited with their pets. We also offer weekly updates including photo’s and videos which has been most effective in reassuring women that their pets are safe & loved while they hide from danger and find new homes

FOAU’s Purple Paw program is free to the women who need it but does require substantial funds to support. Funds we raise mostly through special events. We supply medical care, transport, food & board.  Animal housing for this program also limits FOAU’s ability to rescue and adoption out other animals.

We have a special Purple Paw fund and any donations to this fund is used specifically to shetler the pets of women in domestic abuse situations.  Please help us help them.

Claire Desilets - FOAU Coordinator, Purple Paw 

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.

Lisa Allison

Executive Director, FOAU


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Organization Information

Friends of Animals Utah

Location: Park City, UT - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.foautah.org
Friends of Animals Utah
Project Leader:
Kathleen Toth
Board President
Park City, Utah United States

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