Pet services offered in Roanoke Valley for domestic violence victims

ROANOKE, Va. – Many survivors and victims of abusive relationships are faced with an array of difficult life-altering choices. Some of those choices, not only affect members of the family but pets and other animals. 

“It is common in an abusive relationship for animals to be abused,” said Stacey Sheppard,director of housing and human services for Total Action for Progress. “Those survivors know that if they leave that animal behind, the chances that something catastrophic happening to that animal is likely.”

This thought alone, as well as with many other factors, could determine whether a victim stays or leaves an abusive relationship. In the Roanoke Valley area there are a plethora of resources for individuals affected by domestic violence. 

What you may not know is that, North Roanoke Valley Veterinary Hospital and Angels of Assisi offer services free of charge for domestic violence victims and their animals. Those animals are not limited to pets, but includes farm animals as well. 

Angels of Assisi offers a program called the Guardian Angels, which allows individuals escaping abusive situations to leave their animals for free of charge. The service is fully funded by the Petco Foundation and the Roanoke Valley Help Fund. 

The service requires the owner to give custody to the Guardian Angels. “We offer a service where they can sign over their pets for a two-week period, so that way we are able to provide medical care for them,” veterinary assistant Kristel Brizendine said. 

The organization began in 2013 and receives about two animals a month that come from domestic abusive circumstances. “When the animal comes from an abusive home most of the time the animal is abused as well. Whether it’s physical or it’s the screaming or yelling. It still puts the animal in a terrible place,” Brizendine said. 

Domestic Violence is not just limited to physical abuse, said Shepherd. “Many people think that domestic violence is just broken bones and bruises," she said. "It’s so much more its financial abuse, stalking and using children as pawns.” 

The entire month of October is deemed Domestic Violence Awareness Month and if you or know anyone who needs help, be sure to call the TAP's 24-hour hotline. If you would like to learn more about the services that the two organizations offer, follow these links