The request is part of a plan to educate the public on potential dangers that face people and pets alike.
“This is a significant problem,” Frances Wach, executive director of Saskatchewan SPCA, said.
Tragic findings of an SPCA report sent to the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners show a concern for the safety of an animal is a barrier for individuals to leave situations of interpersonal violence.
“When animals are being abused, people are at risk, when people are being abused, animals are at risk,” Wach said.
That connection is referred to as “the link.”
According to the report, 77 per cent of workers in organizations like women’s shelters or victims’ services knew of victims who didn’t flee an abusive home out of fear for the safety of their pets. This, plus a lack of pet friendly housing creates uncertainty for the victim.
“We’ve heard situations of individuals coming to a transition house with their animals and the transition house can’t help them,” Wach said. “So the individual has left with their animals and we don’t know what’s happened to them.”
In Saskatoon, there are pet safekeeping resources; one of only a handful in the province. The programs are more frequently found in Saskatchewan’s urban centres and are very rare in rural areas.
“We would provide shelter and care for animals while the individual who is under threat gets their life back together,” Patricia Cameron, executive director of Saskatoon SPCA, said. “Then they don’t need to worry that their pet is going to be harmed or who is looking after it, we can give them expert care.”
According to Cameron, the service is used a couple times per month, with pets staying in their care for around three weeks; depending on the victim’s situation.
“I do think it’s good to raise that awareness,” Cameron said. “Not everyone is aware of that, even people in law enforcement.”
The Saskatchewan SPCA is urging the Board of Police Commissioners to consider the link when hiring a new police chief in hopes that will lead to further training, education and partnerships for police officers and animal control officers when they’re dealing with and identifying all signs of abuse.
“When they’re investigating, I guess what we’d be saying is to look at the whole picture,” Wach said. “How are animals being treated and how are people being treated.”
Saskatoon police are giving the request some thought.
“We have all sorts of training that’s provided to us from community partners,” Saskatoon police’s acting chief Mark Chatterbok said. “This is definitely one area that we could look at for perhaps something down the road.”
As for consideration of the link during the hiring process, the board is pleased to see interest in the hiring process.
“We recently reached out to the public to find out what attributes they wanted to see in the Saskatoon police chief,” Darlene Brander, chairperson of the Board of Police Commissioners, said. “Clearly, we’ve gotten some good information from the SPCA to which there is a link between animal abuse and domestic violence; that’s something that we want our next police chief to know.”