One by one, Mississippi State University veterinarians and their students are doing all they can to look after the pets of women who seek refuge in a local domestic violence shelter.
The effort is part of the college’s Safe Haven for Pets program, which since 2009 has taken in 38 animals and kept each of them secure, fed and healthy for an average of 32 days.
Safe Haven for Pets, the recent recipient of a $1,000 grant from the American Kennel Club Humane Fund, was started by clinical professor Sharon Fooshee Grace, MS, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, Dipl. ACVIM.
While women find safekeeping at the Care Lodge Domestic Violence Shelter in Meridian, Miss., their pets get a temporary home with the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“There is a definite connection between domestic violence and animal cruelty and other forms of violence,” said Dr. Fooshee Grace, who launched a similar program when she was in private practice in Tennessee. “In a house with domestic violence, animals are often the first victims as the violence escalates. Concern for pets also can keep human victims in the house too long.
“Having a safe place for their pets may help victims escape their situations sooner.”
Faculty members and students provide the animals with not just food and shelter but veterinary care such as vaccinations, heartworm medication and sterilization surgeries in addition to socialization.
“This is a special program that touches the lives of abuse victims in a positive way,” said Jimmy Kight, the college’s director of development.
The AKC grant covers a fraction of the program’s annual operating costs of $7,000 to $10,000.
“This [gift] will make an impact long after our students graduate, as they are getting the unique opportunity now to learn how to better serve their communities and to address animal cruelty issues,” Kight said.