Stories that save lives. The Animal Safehouse Program.

When your Rancho Coastal Humane Society created our Animal Safehouse Program in 1999 we didn’t have a model to follow. There wasn’t anybody who could teach us how to save the pets and the lives of domestic violence victims.

There were domestic violence shelters for human victims, but they weren’t equipped to provide care for pets.

Where do pets fit in for families experiencing domestic violence? In some cases, abusers harm or threaten family pets as a means of control or mental abuse. Victims know that, if they escape, but leave their pets behind, the pets will become the new targets for the abusers. Since the domestic violence shelters can’t take the pets, the victims stay and the cycle repeats….sometimes for generations.

The Animal Safehouse Program at your Rancho Coastal Humane Society recently received a call from a domestic violence victim who had crossed three state lines to get away from her abuser. She, her children, and their dogs lived in their car for more than three weeks before contacting ASP. She explained that they had been trying to find housing, but couldn’t find any place that would accept their dogs.

The dogs were enrolled in the Animal Safehouse Program. Once they were safe, ASP began working with a local domestic violence agency to arrange for the family to be admitted to an emergency shelter.

Now, a few weeks later, the family is preparing to move into independent housing. We’re counting the days until the dogs will be reunited with their family.  

We all know a victim of domestic violence. If it’s time to escape:

  • Have an escape plan.
  • Hide a bag at the home of a friend or someone you can trust.
  • Make copies of birth certificates, driver’s licenses, checks, and keys.
  • Pack shoes and clothing. (Victims arriving at domestic violence shelters often arrive at night in their pajamas and without shoes.)

The escape plan needs to include pets. ASP at your Rancho Coastal Humane Society is a safety net for pets. When victims understand that their pets will be safe, they can escape. They can break the chain of violence.

Thanks to you, not one client of ASP has ever received a bill. Thanks to you.

Learn more about the Animal Safehouse Program. Call 760-753-6413, visit RCHS at 389 Requeza Street in Encinitas, or log on to