Inclusive Approaches by VAW Shelters: Respecting Women’s Choice to be Together With Companion Animals
Atsuko Matsuoka, John Sorenson
May 11, 2022 Research Article https://doi.org/10.1177/08861099221097758
Women often delay moving to VAW shelters if their companion animals’ safety is not ensured. Yet, few shelters accommodate them together. The purpose of this study is to explore what may help to promote services for women with companion animals facing violence, through learning from professionals who already provide support. Our email survey with VAW shelters in Ontario, Canada identified services and potential interviewees. Nine semi-structured telephone interviews with professionals were conducted to explore their experiences and views on human–animal relationships. All agencies that provided onsite programs, plus one about to start, participated. We utilized Critical Animal Studies as a theory to understand human–animal relationships through concepts such as intersectionality, anthropocentrism, speciesism, and feminist ethics of responsibility. The study found: (1) seven approaches shelters used to help women with companion animals; (2) programs that accept companion animals helped women move to shelters quickly but also affirmed women’s mutually respectful relationships with companion animals; (3) shelters also benefited, including expanding support from local communities and opportunities to educate them. The study suggests that by shifting ontological and theoretical approaches and including a critical examination of human–animal relationships at interpersonal and social structural levels, professional education promotes mobilizing resources for women with companion animals.