Story by: William Maetzold
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — Elizabeth Stoverink said pets can be a major issue for domestic violence victims. Since starting the animal advocate program at the Palomar Family Justice Center just a year ago, she’s helped many animals get to a safe space.
“We can provide temporary fostering in a safe foster home that has been vetted through the humane society to make sure that animal is being cared for, being safe and is provided all of its needs,” Stoverink said.
The Oklahoma City police department wants victims to know victim protective orders also extend to their pets.
“Oklahoma is one of the few states that allows animals to be added to victim protective orders so they can also be included and provided that protection away from the abuser,” Stoverink said.
Another way animals can be protected is being accepted at a domestic violence shelter. Courtney Foster with the Women’s Resource Center in Norman said pets have a space at the shelter.
“We consider it very important to offer pets a safe place to stay because it is one of the barriers to leaving and we want to eliminate as many barriers as possible,” Foster said.
Foster said pets can make it extremely difficult for a victim to leave home.
“I would absolutely count my pets as my family,” Foster said. “So you don’t want to leave a family member behind when you’re escaping a domestic violence situation.”
Stoverink said she wants victims to know there are options for their pets.
“‘Hey, we’ve got a pet,” Stoverink said. “‘We’ve got to provide some kind of service for this animal because we have victims not coming in to seek safe shelter.'”
The Oklahoma State Safeline for domestic violence victims monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is 1-800-522-7233.