Construction began this week on Ottawa’s first animal housing area in a women’s shelter. Interval House of Ottawa (IHO), the city’s oldest shelter for women and children fleeing intimate partner violence, is renovating so they can accept pets, keeping families together and reducing abuse victims’ trauma. It will be the only violence-against-women shelter in the city and surrounding area to allow pets.
“Many women don’t leave abusive relationships in order to protect their pets, who are usually abused as well,” said Kia Rainbow, Executive Director. “There is such a strong link between pets and mental health, including the ability to recover from trauma, that it really is essential to support the family so they can escape together.”
Done in partnership with Community Veterinary Outreach (CVO), the project began when veterinarian Dr Michelle Lem approached IHO with the idea. “Providing emergency sheltering of pets with their families will save the lives of both women and their animal companions,” said Lem, CVO Director and founding partner. “The link between animal abuse and intimate partner violence is well-established, as well as the harmful effects on children who witness animal abuse.”
While IHO has been serving women and their dependents since 1977, CVO brings expertise in animal housing and hygiene requirements, animal and public health policies and procedures, and connection to local support for veterinary care.
Tauvette Construction is building the structure, which should be complete by Spring. “We received an outpouring of support when we first announced our pet plans, but we’re not quite there yet with our fundraising,” Rainbow said. “Some parts may be delayed, depending on funds. Still, we hope to start welcoming our furry friends soon.”
The Animal Housing Area will be built in the basement of the shelter and will include five fully enclosed spaces including: cat housing; dog housing; small animals housing; a sanitation room for feeding, grooming, and laundry; and a pet-friendly living room. An outdoor, enclosed area will also be created for the pets to exercise and play. IHO must raise donations from the community to complete the project.
IHO operates at full capacity at all times, providing emergency housing to over 250 women and dependents each year. It is the only shelter in Ottawa that is not fully funded by the province. The Ministry of Community and Social Services provides funds for 20 beds and IHO relies on fundraising to support an additional 10 beds. IHO supports another 2200 women on its crisis line and 150 women in the community annually.
One in three women will experience violence in their lifetime. Intimate partner violence has been consistently identified as one of the most common forms of violence against women in Canada.
IHO has estimated the cost of this project to be $100,000. Currently, it has been supported by grants from PetSmart Charities of Canada and Ottawa Community Foundation, plus donations from a couple who wishes to remain anonymous, and many individual donors.
About the shelter
Interval House of Ottawa is committed to ending the cycle of violence and to empowering women and children who are victims of violence. We provide emergency shelter for women and their children fleeing violence, and offer crisis intervention and prevention services, advocacy for victims, and education about violence for both victims of violence and the community at large. Let’s all work together to end violence against women and their dependents.
For more on Community Veterinary Outreach, visit https://vetoutreach.org