Ohio — Animal abuse is often the first visible sign a
family is living with the threat of domestic violence.
than 70 percent of women who enter a shelter report
their abuser has hurt, killed or threatened the family
pet. When animal cruelty investigators enter a house, it
is not uncommon for them to find that an abuser not only
has victimized the family dog, but also the children and
other adults living there, according to the American
(victims) won’t talk about their own abuse, but they
will talk about the abuse their animals face," said
Joy Wagner, one of the founders of Peace for Pets, a
rare animal rescue that alleviates the anxiety of
domestic violence victims by offering pets a safe haven,
allowing the women, in most cases, to enter a shelter
without abandoning the pet to their abusers.
Ohio, resident Lori Hissner turned to Peace for Pets
last June after police who responded to a call of
domestic violence saw her husband choking her while
keeping her in a headlock. He was arrested and charged
with kidnapping by restraint.
days later, he used a sheet to hang himself in his Stark
County, Ohio, Jail cell.
only 13 months, Hissner said her husband’s verbal
abuse escalated to physical violence on her that also
sent one of her daughters into anxiety attacks. Even the
family’s chocolate Labrador retriever-mix dog, Bear,
would slink away and hide in fear during his outbursts.
day her husband was arrested, Hissner took her family
— including Bear — to her mother’s home in a
retirement community. They stayed for eight weeks before
moving to a shelter and sending Bear to a foster home
affiliated with Peace for Pets.
a handful of Ohio shelters allow a victim to bring an
animal. There are even fewer that coordinate with animal
shelters to provide a safe foster home for the pet, said
Judith Snyder-Wagner, co-founder of Peace for Pets in
are a resource because a lot of people won’t leave the
(abusive) situation because they don’t want to leave
the animal behind," Snyder-Wagner said.
For Pets is among only seven such agencies in Ohio,
according to a national directory published by Ahimsa
House, a member agency of the Georgia Coalition Against
Wagner, a lawyer who specializes in divorce cases, said
she sees this dilemma as one that victims face
hit home was there was so much violence (observed
through) my law practice. One of the first cases I did,
a woman had five or six horses, and she wouldn’t leave
them while her abuser was still there," Wagner
and Snyder-Wagner formed the nonprofit, with a
six-member board of directors, in 2007. Its original
goal: to teach and promote TNR (Trap, Neuter and Return)
of feral cats. The women branched out about two years
ago when they realized the need for the service for
victims of domestic violence.
agency’s network of fosters will keep any type of
animal safe for up to 60 days until the human victims
are able to leave the shelter and reclaim their pets.
more than two years, only three people no longer wanted
their pets or were unable to take them back following
their stay in a shelter, Snyder-Wagner said, and the
rescue quickly found adoptive homes for those animals.
soon as the agency receives a referral from a domestic
violence shelter, it quickly takes steps to get the
animal from the victim, out of the home with the help of
a relative or family friend, or a court order and police
escort, if necessary.
animal is immediately taken to a veterinarian for any
needed medical attention, quarantined for up to three
days, then placed in one of 15 foster homes. Ten
additional volunteers stand ready to take the animals to
the vet, represent the rescue at public gatherings or
work on a fundraising letter it sends out annually.
October, the agency has raised $3,500 in the campaign.
winter sets in, volunteers raise funds by building and
selling feral cat shelters with the zoology club at
Malone University in Canton.
Hissner and her daughters Ashley and Kaitlyn — along
with Bear — are safe, well and living in a new home
away from painful memories. She attended classes, became
state-certified as a nursing aide and has been hired
into a new job.
said she has many reasons to thank the women of the
rescue, especially Snyder-Wagner, with whom she
interacted the most.
love her to death. She doesn’t just care about the
pets, she cares about the people, too," Hissner
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for Pets will send a representative to any civic group
that would like to hear more about the program. For more
information, go to