By: Christine Nicco/TRT Reporter—
BOSTON—Soon after graduating from college, Jordan Ross found himself on the streets along with his black lab in order to escape domestic violence. Little did he know that this experience would inevitably change the lives of many—survivors of domestic violence and the animals they treasure.
“I fled and realized quickly [that] shelters in Boston prohibit pets,” explained Ross. “Luckily through a social worker, I fostered Jazz [his black Lab] temporarily at … a group home for men transitioning out of homelessness. The men loved my dog, and Jazz [and I] then faced a common purpose.”
Pets Empower was born.
According to the non-profit foundation’s website, Pets Empower “provides volunteers and funding to existing short-term pet fostering organizations, enabling those organizations to help those in crisis situations,” such as domestic violence, DV.
“I realized others are in need of services and up to 65 percent of DV survivors fail to leave because of their pets,” Ross said.
Compounding the existing crisis, The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence found that 52 percent of victims in shelters leave their pets with their batterers.
“Just by providing pet fostering, we save lives of people and pets and preserve pet families to improve healthy outcomes,” said Ross, who is also executive director of the foundation. “It takes care of the pet concern and provides peace of mind [that] the pet is taken care of. The survivor can focus on self-care.”
As soon as the survivors are ready, they [survivors and pets] can reunite, Ross said.
Pets Empower’s pilot programs have assisted in five cases to date, primarily in Boston and Providence, with expectations of those numbers increasing in the coming year. The organization was launched earlier in 2016.
Survivors or a domestic violence survivor advocate can reach out to Pets Empower directly to receive assistance.
“We have an intake button ‘find pet fostering’ on www.petsempower.org,” Ross noted.
To ensure pets are well provided for, he said that not only are the pets picked up from the survivor, they are also screened by a veterinarian and then placed into temporary foster care.
“The process is monitored,” Ross added. “We collaborate with SafePeopleSafePets in Wellesley, [Mass.] for the foster.”
Sue Webb, coordinator for SafePeopleSafePets shared her thoughts about the foundation via the organization’s website.
“Pets Empower is much needed help to non-profits working to help pets and their people stay together,” she said. “[It] has connected us with facilities that were eager to help so people could seek safety while their pets were also in a safe place.”
Ross finds the community support standing behind the survivors and their pets to be part of the greatest reward since founding the organization. He said, “It’s all about unconditional love.”
“Seeing how our community deeply cares about DV survivors and their pets and meeting our clients where they are and allowing them to feel heard, understood, and appreciated [is most rewarding],” Ross explained.
Like many non-profits, Pets Empower relies on volunteers and community assistance to further their work.
“We’d love volunteers to foster, share our social media, and [make a] donation to [help] pay for vet care and food,” Ross said. “We’d love to collect doggy toys and [care] items and are open to collaborating with community organizations and corporations for social impact.”
Currently, the foundation is running a #HowPetsEmpower campaign and invite the community to send in a 30-second video of “how your pet empowered you to overcome a life challenge.”
Pets Empower allows survivors to find their voices and shows them that people do care about them and their pets, Ross said.
“[It also] demonstrates to survivors that some people are trustworthy and free fostering is an indication of hope and finding a life of choice, dignity, and freedom,” he added.
[Originally published on the Dec. 8, 2016 Issue of TRT]