I’ve always been drawn to local events happening around the city, especially ones that focus on a cause. I’ve been going on and off for years now, mostly enjoying the giveaways and silent auctions, but seriously loving soaking in everything that I can learn about whichever foundation. Looking back, there have been quite a few appearances, but I just recently attended an event that will forever be burned into my mind, and my heart. October 22nd was SafePet Ottawa’s First Annual Inaugural Masquerade Ball, and although I agreed to attend before being fully aware of what exactly this cause represents, I’m sure glad that I always say yes.

Upon entering Tudor Hall (doesn’t that just sound so royal and glamorous? Especially for Ottawa!) was a banquet room full of fabulously set ornate tables, a full cash bar, a silent auction snaking along the wall, and a table where you could buy the most exquisite masks. After purchasing the best one – a gorgeous, sexy, elaborate, mysterious getup, and mingling while the fashionably late arrived, we were treated to a full buffet dinner. I’m not talking Tucker’s Marketplace style, but spreads of brie cheese, salmon, a variety of salads, and olives and prosciutto and delectable fresh bread. This was only the first table. The second was the hot food, such as an Italian style cheese cannoli, roasted potatoes, and an array of meats. While enjoying this fresh and fancy meal, we learned so much about SafePet.

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Before the explanation of what exactly the SafePet organization does, is a story that was shared at the event that I think you all should know. It’s not pleasant, so be forewarned. In a nutshell, there was a battered woman who was on the phone making an attempt at arrangements to leave her abuser. Unbeknownst to her, he came up behind her, grabbed her dog (her companion, her confidante, her protector) and slit its throat. Yes, this is horrifying and made everyone teary eyed, but not uncommon. Often times partner assault and animal abuse are connected; the abuser has no problem harming an animal in order to control the behaviour of their partner. This is why, in Ontario, 48% of women delay leaving or will not leave at all – for fear that their animals will be hurt or killed. After that phone call, over three years ago, SafePet has blossomed into an organization with over 50 Fosters, but they could always use your help.

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WHAT EXACTLY IS SAFEPET?

SafePet Ottawa fosters companion animals for women and their children who need to exit from domestic violence into the safety of local Violence Against Women (VAW) shelters. They provide necessary veterinary intake (examinations and vaccinations) and long- or short-term fostering for the duration of a woman’s stay in her shelter. Upon exiting a shelter, they reunite owners with their pets so that they can move into a better future together.

WHO IS INVOLVED?

Veterinary clinics, fosters, behaviourists, and sometimes just the average person wanting to help out and make a difference. Volunteers help spread the word about the services they offer, conduct invaluable research and coordinate community events & fundraisers. If you’re interested, you can fill out an application here today to join the amazing team! There is also the option to become a SafePet Foster and provide shelter to animals in need of safety. Click here for more info on that. Finally, the easiest thing you can do is make a donation. SafePet is not funded by any government bodies or programs. All of their equipment, pet food, and veterinary fees are paid for by money raised by fundraising or given to them by generous people in the community.

HOW DOES SAFEPET WORK?

First, SafePet Veterinarians serve as a neutral location where the pet owner can drop off their pet before entering a VAW shelter. The identities of the pet owner and Foster are kept strictly confidential for the security and well-being of everyone, including the pet. Usually the VAW shelter will arrange transport for the woman from her current residence to the shelter, so the drop-off of the pet will be done on the way to the shelter.

Volunteer pet Fosters in the Ottawa area take in pets of women that belong to VAW shelters. The Fosters provide the pet with everything necessary (food, shelter, exercise) so that these women can remain in a safe place until they are ready to exit without having to worry about their pets’ well-being.

Once the woman exits the shelter, the hub for pick-ups and transfers between Foster and owner is at the intake Veterinarian’s practice.

WHERE WILL MY DONATION GO?

Your donations make SafePet possible to provide a higher level of veterinary care when it is needed; to de-worm and treat pre-existing medical conditions, treat pets to prevent heart worms, and help with food, bedding, dishes, leashes and crates. What’s really neat is that animals can be sent home to their owners with an “I’m Going Home” package that includes the bedding they are now used to, the dishes they now call their own, and the crates that have given them their much needed sense of peaceful space. This, of course, makes the transition easier for both the pet and the owner.

WHAT NEXT?

I have a current, ever curated “Life List”, and one of the goals that has been on my list for forever is to foster an animal. After learning about this cause and meeting the wonderful people, my heartstrings are completely pulled towards SafePet. I guess discussions and details will be under way, but I’ll keep you all posted as to the entire process and hopefully be able to walk you through fostering with this organization. I only hope this inspires at least some of you out there to foster, volunteer, offer your services, or even simply donate. It really does make all the difference. In the meantime, teaching my cat how to walk on a leash will be on the back burner. Being a Foster through this organization is so much more important.

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