SafePet Ottawa – A network that supports abused women and their pets

SafePet Ottawa – A network that supports abused women and their pets

This month’s Woof Wish spotlights SafePet Ottawa. This caring & dynamic volunteer organization provides support and foster homes for the companion animals of abused women and their children who need to exit from domestic violence to the safety of a local Violence Against Women (VAW) shelters.

 The Vital First Step

SafePet Ottawa provides that vital first step for victims of abuse, a safe haven for their pet. Pets or ‘fur babies’ as they are called are loved by their owners in the same way a mother loves her child. It is the most important positive emotional relationship they have in their life and many often risk their own lives to protect their pet. This cannot be understated, 48% of abused women in Ontario* who should be exiting from situations of domestic violence, delay leaving or don’t leave at all, because they fear abuse or death of their pets at the hands of their abuser.

A Template for Others

Last March, The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) presented their 2017 honorary membership award to Ayala Sher, a retired Ottawa high school teacher, dog lover and the founder of SafePet Ottawa. Ms. Sher is quick to point out that the real award recipients are the SafePet Ottawa team of volunteers. They range from veterinary clinics, fosters and dog behaviourists to ordinary citizens, like yourself.

The SafePet Ottawa model so impressed the OVMA that they are now considering it as a template for other cities. Many Ontario municipalities have also approached SafePet Ottawa about replicating the network.

OVMA spokeswoman Melissa Carlaw points out that vets in Ontario have had a protocol, for many years to deal with the pets of women going into shelters. Unfortunately vets are not set up to care for animals over the long term. It often takes several months before a woman is ready to leave a shelter and veterinarians know that the best place for animals is in a home. 


Confidential Fostering

“You can’t help the animal without helping the woman,” Ms. Sher says. “We tell people who foster that they’re saving at least two lives. SafePet Ottawa provides necessary veterinary intake and long or short-term fostering for the duration of a woman’s stay in her shelter.”

Here’s how the SafePet Ottawa works. The community pet fosters in the Ottawa area take-in pets belonging to women who are residents of VAW shelters. The fosters provide pets with food, shelter and appropriate exercise. This support makes it possible for women at risk to stay in safety without worrying about their pets’ well-being.

Vets, who work with SafePet Ottawa, act as a hub. They provide a neutral location for pet owners to drop-off, pick-up and transfer their pet before entering a VAW shelter. That shelter usually arranges transport for the woman from her current residence to the VAW shelter. The Vet then completes a health exam and administers any needed vaccinations to the animal. Pet’s owner and foster identities are kept strictly confidential for the security and well-being of the pet and volunteers. Once the woman leaves the VAW shelter, she is reunited with her pet(s).

SafePet Ottawa continues to build a network of caring supportive people and they are always looking for more volunteers. For more information please visit:, Facebook

*1998 OSPCA study

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