By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
When Conna Montgomery’s research about animal abuse taught her women routinely stay in abusive relationships because of their pets, she knew she had to do something.
“I kept coming back to domestic violence in shelters and it came up so many times I said, ‘OK, God, this is where you want me to go?” said Montgomery, the project secretary for the Pontotoc County Animal Rescue & Shelter. “I learned a lot of women will not leave an abusive situation and go to a shelter because they can’t take their pets with them. A lot of times because they’ve had their pet threatened.”
Montgomery contacted Deborah Yates at the S.A.F.E. women’s shelter in Tupelo and found out there was a need for animal foster homes.
“I told her most definitely,” said Yates, executive director of S.A.F.E. Inc. “We want to remove that barrier. We don’t want a pet to be the cause for a woman to stay in an abusive relationship.”
About two months ago, Montgomery received a call from a S.A.F.E. counselor telling her a woman with three dogs called the shelter’s hotline.
“I met with the counselor and picked up the little dogs,” Montgomery said. “I took notes about them and their personalities so we would know how to take care of them. When I loaded them into my vehicle, she broke down and cried and said she could have never done this if not for someone taking the dogs.”
Montgomery took the dogs to have their rabies vaccines updated and then placed them in one of her foster homes.
To keep the foster families, pets and women safe, Yates and Montgomery make all of the arrangements and the foster families don’t know where the dogs come from. Likewise, the women reporting to the shelter don’t know who has the animals.
Once a safe living situation has been worked out for the women in the shelter, their dogs are returned to them, and they can move on.
“Out of about 25 crisis calls each month, one of those 25 will involve pets,” Yates said.
Pontotoc County Animal Rescue doesn’t currently have a building and works as a network of volunteers through their website, pcars.weebly.com and their Facebook page.
Montgomery said they are always looking for foster homes in and out of Pontotoc County for S.A.F.E. Pets.
Anyone interested in helping S.A.F.E. Pets can donate to the Pontotoc County Animal Rescue through the Create Foundation’s website, createfoundation.com.
To contact S.A.F.E. about leaving an abusive home, call (800) 527-7233.