Ontario Veterinarians Launch Program to Assist Women at Risk of Abuse (and their children) and their Pets to Escape Domestic Abuse

    MILTON, ON, Aug. 31 /CNW/ - Thanks to the generous support of the
provincial government, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) is
pleased to announce the expansion of a program which has been assisting women
to flee domestic violence.
    Since 2003, veterinarians across the province have helped hundreds of
abused women (and their children) by opening their clinic doors and providing
temporary shelter and care to their pets through OVMA's SafePet Program.
    According to a 1998 survey by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA):

        "48% of surveyed Ontario women who had left their abusive partner
        said that (concern for the safety of) their pets delayed their
        decision to leave an abusive partner."

        "61% of surveyed Ontario women who had left their abusive partner
        stated that their partners had brutalized or killed a pet."

    "Veterinarians are proud to be able to help our communities," says Dr.
Debbie Stoewen, OVMA spokesperson and veterinarian from Kitchener, Ontario.
"SafePet helps abused women by taking away one of the factors that has been
known to make women hesitate about leaving their domestic abuse situations.
    "In most abusive situations, the family pet is also at risk of abuse.
Many women do not want to leave their beloved pets behind with their abuser,
knowing they will be left in danger. By finding temporary safe homes for the
pets, we are helping, if not saving, the lives of women, children, and
    Until now, the OVMA SafePet program has been run by volunteer
veterinarians who have sheltered these pets in their own veterinary
facilities. For many years, veterinarians have been telling OVMA that they
wish they could participate in the program, but they simply do not have the
space to keep these pets in their clinics. The expanded SafePet Program will
now allow all Ontario veterinarians the opportunity to provide this necessary
assistance to their local communities.
    Under the expanded SafePet program, veterinarians will either take the
pets into their facilities or recruit community members as temporary pet
foster parents (volunteers). These pet foster parents will give temporary
homes, care, exercise, food and love to pets owned by women who are entering
and receiving the help they need from a registered Ontario women's shelter.
Veterinarians also provide initial physical examinations of the pets - along
with any necessary medical treatment and vaccinations - prior to handing the
pets over to pet foster parents. Throughout the process, veterinarians also
provide assistance and guidance to the pet foster parents.
    The program is administered by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association
(OVMA). Veterinarians play a lead role in recruiting pet foster parents,
matching pet foster parents with the pets of women entering women's shelters,
and caring for the pets while the women are in shelters. Veterinarians are
involved on a voluntary basis as are pet foster parents. Funds offered by the
Province will help offset the cost of promoting the program to women at risk
of abuse and to potential pet foster parents. OVMA's SafePet program also
receives assistance from OVMA's charitable organization, the Farley Foundation
(assists seniors, disabled individuals and women at risk of abuse with the
necessary veterinary care of the pets that mean the world to them -
    "As animal health care experts who live and work in communities across
the province (urban and rural) veterinarians (large or small animal
specialists) are in a great position to lead such an important initiative,"
adds Dr. Stoewen. "By working together, we can end violence in our

    For more information about OVMA's SafePet program:

    1.  General information: Visit www.ovma.org
    2.  Women seeking assistance may speak with any women's shelter across
        Ontario or call the Women's Helpline at 1.866.863.0511 (TTY
    3.  Potential pet foster parents: Please speak with a local veterinarian.
    4.  Brochures outlining the program - which include an application form
        for potential pet foster parents - will soon be available at
        veterinary clinics, libraries, pet stores and women's shelters across

    Founded in 1980, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association represents
more than 3,300 Ontario veterinarians in private practice, government,
academia, industry and public service. Its mandate is to advance and promote
excellence in the veterinary profession in Ontario, and contribute to the
betterment of animal health and the protection of human health.

For further information:

For further information: Nadia Vercillo, OVMA Manager of Communications
& Public Relations, c. (416) 237-9740 or 1-800-670-1702, ext. 15, or

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Ontario Veterinary Medical Association

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