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Foster a Pet and Help Victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

By: Kelsey Gurganus, director of research and evaluation, DVN

My intense love for animals, especially dogs, has never been a secret. I am the person that gravitates to any furry animal in the room no matter the time or place.  I currently have three dogs (Jack, Sally, and Cocoa) and two cats (Jimmy and Lucky). They are often referred to as my “zoo,” and even have their own social media hashtag (#irvzoo) because who doesn’t love routine Instagram posts of cute dogs and cats?!  Despite the often chaotic times in the #irvzoo, they bring me so much relief, joy, loyalty, and love, especially on my toughest days it’s all worth it. In my eyes, dogs are perfect. They are our family members, therapists, best friends, workout partners, protectors, consolers, comforters, and more. I have always believed that we do not deserve dogs.  To us, they are just another special part of our lives. However, to them, we are their whole world.


From left to right: Jack, Sally, and Cocoa.

I know so many people share the same love and compassion for their pets as I do.  Unfortunately, pets are often a huge barrier for domestic violence victims unable to escape their abusers.  According to the Humane Society of the United States, approximately 40 percent of victims are unable to escape their abusers because they are concerned about what will happen to their pets once they leave. Many abusers use pets to psychologically control victims and children.  

The Beacon of Hope Crisis Center, located on the south-side of Indianapolis, has a Foster Pet Program to support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  The goal of the program is to make every effort to provide a safe and loving foster home for pets while their family heals.  The pets are reunited with owners when they can be housed in a safe and loving home. Foster Pet families are volunteers and  responsible for the direct care of pets by providing temporary shelter, food, and veterinary services while the victim secures safe, permanent housing that will enable the return of their pet(s).  

If you love animals as much as I do, check out the Foster Pet Program and consider volunteering.  Here are the Top Ten reasons you should sign-up:

  1. Companionship without a lifetime commitment.
  2. Animals that have endured a hardship can benefit greatly from a loving home.
  3. Fostering provides a great lesson in compassion to children and it’s a wonderful, life-affirming experience.
  4. If you have one or more dogs or cats, one more won’t make a difference to you, but it sure will make a difference to the foster animal that otherwise might lose its’ family.
  5. Fostering increases the likelihood that the victim will leave the abusive situation and find a safe environment for themselves and their pet.
  6. It’s FUN!!
  7. You’re able to share with your foster animal what a life filled with love should be.
  8. Each year, 68 percent of abused women reported violence towards their animals from the abuser.
  9. You could be saving lives.
  10. It’s a wonderful way to give back to the community.

If being a Foster Pet Parent is something you’re interested in learning more about, you can contact Tracy Vatne, Foster Pet Program Coordinator for more information at:  317-731-6131