Shelter a Pet, Save a Life

Did you know that 2/3 of all households have pets? That is a lot of people. Did you also know that people have in fact died because the places they sought refuge from would or could not shelter their pets?

Remember Hurricane Katrina and the startling images of people forced to abandon their pets or of people who refused to leave their pets behind?  This catastrophe led to a shift in how service systems responded to families with pets in times of crisis.

Yet we have a long way to go, especially in Virginia where very few shelters accept pets. We can change this.

logo3-smWe recently had the privilege of having renowned animal advocate and founder of Sheltering Animals and Families Together, Allie Phillips Esq., present a webinar on how shelters can work towards sheltering the pets of survivors of sexual and domestic violence. During the webinar, Allie shared that she gets many emails daily from survivors asking for help in leaving an abusive situation – help that involves NOT leaving their pets behind to be tortured, killed, or abused. To have to choose between their own safety and that of a beloved pet is one that no one should have to make.

Understandably, some shelters have concerns about costs and the practicality of actually allowing pets in their residences. Many of these concerns were addressed in Allie’s webinar and she offers real-life examples of shelters who are making it work all over the country. Funding issues, vet care, physical accommodations and more are addressed in the webinar. Allie does an excellent job of breaking down the myths and all the reasons why it’s not possible to all the ways it IS possible.

We encourage everyone to take 1 hour and watch this resource-packed webinar and make plans to change how intake and safety planning are done so that pets are part of the equation. Get your communities involved as well! Everyone from vets, to animal shelters, to animal control, to law enforcement, to churches and more have a vested interest in saving the lives of survivors who just want to keep their pets with them and safe.

To illustrate the dire need for us to act, consider quotes from actual survivors:

“I stayed alive over a fish. When I had nothing else, I had a fish. It kept me going.

“If I had known about [this pet housing program] ahead of time, that would have saved my animals through the years that I’ve lost because of my abuser.”

The recorded version of the webinar is here. And if you are interested in doing more, reach out to us at We would love to exchange ideas, resources, and plans so that we can all work together to serve more survivors with pets.

Laura Bennett is the Training Institute Coordinator for the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She is the mother of 2 girls, 4 cats, and 3 dogs. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 15 years and is passionate about helping nonprofits build their capacity to carry out their missions. A native of New York state, she is happy to be living in the warm South.

To check out the conferences and training that Laura helps produce, click here.


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call.

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Meet Emily Robinson

Why do you do this Anti-Violence work?

In a world that often silences and disbelieves survivors, supporting those who are experiencing the effects of violence feels like the most important, urgently-needed work I could be doing. I am so happy and honored that I am able to be there for people experiencing trauma; to hear their stories and to validate their humanity and their feelings.

What would you like to learn your first year on your new job?

I want to learn more about the various programs across Virginia, the communities they serve and the different types of help they offer. I hope to always be improving my advocacy skills so I can give folks who call the hotline the best possible support.

What is the latest book you have read and would you recommend it?

I just finished a book called The Medieval Home Companion, written by a Frenchman as a guide for his young wife in the 14th century. I would not recommend to folks who are not already interested in medieval domestic life. Though, if you have been searching for an inscrutable recipe for linen-stamping ink made from oak galls and axle grease, definitely hit it up.


4ed064dcd2dc719dfed8756e62778cb5 Pig Cages

If you were a vegetable what would you be? Why?

This is the most challenging question in this interview. A bell pepper, maybe? They’re super versatile and guinea pigs love them.



Describe the magazines on your coffee table?

There are always a lot of 90s-early 2000s zines on my coffee table, and I have a huge collection of old Maximum Rock and Roll magazines from that era, so those are always around. I usually read Terrorizer and Decibel (metal magazines), and have a subscription to TapeOp, a magazine about home recording. I love corny/trashy history magazines, too – the kind that treat Richard III like a teen heartthrob.

What are the 3 things you love about Virginia?

  • Richmond is one of the great American metal cities. So many of the best metal bands in the world right now are from right here (Inter Arma, Cough, Windhand, Prisoner…).
  • I am proud to live in a city where so much great community organizing, anti-violence work and resistance is happening.
  • I am from Tennessee, but a lot of my ancestors came to America from England via Virginia in the 17th century. I like being able to research that piece of my family’s history at places like the Library of Virginia.
  • It is wonderful to live somewhere with a truly great, free art museum like the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.


What is the most incredible view you have ever seen?

It’s maybe not the most “incredible” –- it’s not from a great height or across a vast expanse, etc. —  but my favorite view is Primrose Hill in London.

Lastly, what excites you most about your new job at the Action Alliance? 

I love how the staff here looks out for, cares about, and celebrates one another in very sincere ways.

Emily is a Hotline Crisis Services Specialist at the Action Alliance. She volunteers with Girls Rock! RVA and Knoxville Girls Rock Camp, and is a board member of the international Girls Rock Camp Alliance. She is a musician, knitter and armchair medievalist.


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email