Safe Haven for Pets

Women often delay leaving an abusive partner if they can’t secure safe havens for their pets, but thanks to partnership between the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Care Lodge Domestic Violence Shelter (CLDVS) in Meridian, MS, there is an option for these furry family members and hope for these women.

Two women pose with two dogsMSU CVM Clinical Professor Dr. Sharon Grace and CLDVS Director Leslie Payne work together to coordinate the Safe Haven for Pets program, which provides short-term boarding and medical care for the benefit of such women and their pets.

The program’s beginning actually stemmed from an experience Dr. Grace had while in private practice in the mid-1990s when a compassionate neighbor brought an abused kitten to her for care. Dr. Grace was haunted by the tragic circumstances of this situation, and, as a result of advice that to be able to move forward, she needed to “rewrite” the end of the kitten’s story, she began offering free medical care and housing to animals in crisis.

After joining the CVM Department of Clinical Sciences in 1999, Dr. Grace just happened to meet Payne at a domestic violence conference, where she shared her ideas for a program benefitting the women and their pets. The two ultimately merged their passions for their causes, and in 2008, the MSU CVM-based Safe Haven for Pets program was launched.  The Program provides free, temporary boarding and care for pets of women and children entering the Care Lodge.

Grant funds helped start the program, but it now operates solely from donations. The funds provide vaccines, flea and tick control, spay or neuter surgeries, heartworm and parasite testing and treatment, and any other medically necessary treatment for the animals. It also provides transportation to and from MSU, and pet food is routinely donated by commercial pet food companies.

Pets in the program stay from days to months, until their owners are able to return for them. Third-year veterinary students deliver hands-on care under the supervision of MSU CVM Associate Clinical Professor Dr. Christine Bryan, who provides the day-to-day medical care for the animals on a volunteer basis.

The Program is an eye-opening experience for many MSU CVM students and often proves beneficial to them in years to come when dealing with clients who are in crisis situations or if they decide to pursue this type of service work. It is also beneficial to these animals, who are often shy and untrusting of most  humans when they arrive. The Program is also considered a “godsend” by most Care Lodge clients.

To donate to the Safe Haven for Pets Fund, contact Jimmy Kight at (662) 325-5893 or