A safe place for pets

One of the Yukon's animal welfare groups is looking to help the pets of women fleeing domestic violence. Jordi Mikeli-Jones is the founder of Kona's Coalition.

One of the Yukon’s animal welfare groups is looking to help the pets of women fleeing domestic violence.

Jordi Mikeli-Jones is the founder of Kona’s Coalition. Since 2013 the non-profit has been providing grants to owners who can’t afford medical care for their pets.

Mikeli-Jones said helping women involved in domestic violence has always been on the long-term list of goals.

“In the back of my mind, even before I started the coalition, it was something close to my heart. I was aware that it’s not existent, the support for low-income people or people who are suffering in homes where there’s domestic violence.”

The idea is to create a safe haven where pets can be cared for in foster homes while the women are escaping an abusive home.

Earlier this month, the Yukon government’s Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Fund announced it was giving a $5,000 grant to the group.

Most women’s shelters, including the one in Whitehorse, do not allow pets.

A report by the Alberta SPCA in 2012 found that deciding to leave a violent situation is harder when there are animals involved.

According to the report, nearly 60 per cent of the women who answered the question said they delayed leaving because they knew they would be leaving their animal in an unsafe situation.

Charlotte Hrenchuk, co-ordinator of the Yukon Status of Women Council, said she’s heard similar stories from victims in the Yukon.

“I know of quite a few stories where women have stayed because the partner has threatened to kill the pet or severely abuse the pet if the women were to leave,” she said.

“Sometimes that pet is the only comfort and joy in the woman’s life and to think that something would happen to their pet is intolerable.”

Hrenchuk said this program, once it’s up and running, is something she would support.

Similar safe haven organizations exist across Canada. Mikeli-Jones said 40 states in the U.S. also offer some sort of program.

The Yukon group is still in its infancy. No firm start date has been set.

They’re busy right now building the required infrastructure, Mikeli-Jones said. That includes recruiting potential foster families, creating an advisory committee and reaching out to RCMP, bylaw, victim services, Kaushee’s Place and other community groups that might be connected to women in need.

The details are still being worked out, but Mikeli-Jones is hoping that front-line workers who deal with women fleeing violence will soon ask if there are any animals in the house. Then Kona’s coalition would be called and a drop-off organized.

“Basically we want to provide confidential foster care services for up to 30 days. At the end of the period we could renew the agreement if it is deemed necessary and if the foster care provider is agreeable to it,” she said.

The fostering would be completely anonymous, Mikeli-Jones said. The temporary caregivers would have no idea where the animal came from and the person who hands them over won’t know where the pet goes.

Potential foster patents will be screened with background checks and home visits. They’ll also get training on topics like confidentiality, and aggressive behaviour specific to animals that come from violent homes, she said.

The coalition is now seeking people willing to foster the animals.

More information is on the organization’s website at www.konascoalition.org

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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