Rancho Coastal Humane Society’s Animal Safehouse Program Provides Shelter for Pets in Crisis Situations
Safety. Comfort. Peace. Three words that describe the positive forces animals bring to a family. But what happens when that family is shattered by violence or trauma? That’s where the Rancho Coastal Humane Society’s Animal Safehouse Program (ASP) steps in. Formed in 1997 to answer the call from local domestic violence shelters seeking refuge for residents’ pets, the ASP serves as a haven for animals whose owners need to flee a dangerous situation.
What started with three pets in the first year now shelters 150—from hamsters and cats to horses and dogs—in kennels or foster homes, and provides relief for more than 1,000 people seeking safe temporary housing. In addition to victims of domestic violence, the Encinitas location offers a unique service for military members sheltering their pets while they receive inpatient treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. The ASP also assists hospitalized patients or other community members in crisis situations, and recently opened a pet food bank to provide meals for animals whose owners might otherwise go hungry to feed them.
“We never want anyone to choose between keeping their family safe and leaving their furry child behind, or between feeding themselves and feeding their pet,” says Amy Heflin, ASP Director.
“We are a barrier-breaking program,” she adds. “There are so many obstacles to leaving a difficult situation; we remove the barrier of not having a place for your animal. People have said, ‘If you weren’t available, I’d be sleeping in my car with my dog.’”
Thanks to the ASP, people in crisis don’t have to sleep in their car or, worse, stay in a violent household where animals are also victimized. Thanks to the ASP, they have a safe place to turn and a hope for reunification.
“We care for every animal as if it were our own,” Heflin concludes. “We look at every situation and ask, ‘Can we make a difference? Can we keep this family together?’”
For more information, visit the programs section at sdpets.org