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Safe Pets Safe Families calls for new volunteers!

Sadly, across Australia, most shelters do not accept pets but charities like Safe Pets Safe Families are on a mission to change this and help keep people and their pets together.

Safe Pets Safe Families is a 100% volunteer run organisation and registered charity which provides care, support and education to people and pets in crisis, reducing the incidents of abuse, neglect, surrender and euthanasia in companion animals.

During this National Volunteer Week 2023, we spoke to Founder Jennifer Howard about how far the organisation has come over the past 10 years and her plans for the future.

What spurred you to create Safe Pets Safe Families and what services do you provide?

“I personally experienced Domestic Violence and had to flee to safety with my children, without the option to take my much loved dogs.
” explains Jennifer. I never saw our dogs again, they were surrendered to the pound and likely euthanised.
This absolutely broke my heart and still haunts me to this day.
The service started 10 years ago when I visited a women’s shelter and asked how I could help. I didn't want anyone else experiencing what I did, so I created Safe Pets Safe Families, a foster program to help people experiencing family and domestic violence keep their pets.”

Currently, in Australia, there is a service gap so the main purpose of Safe Pets Safe Families is to deliver programs and services that support and assist people in Domestic Violence situations to be able to leave safely with their children and pets so they can all be reunited when they are back on their feet. 

Our services are also available to people who are already homeless, suddenly become homeless or are experiencing health or financial crisis. The Safe Pets Safe Families program provides emergency retrieval of animals and a foster care service for up to 12 weeks for the pets of people leaving Domestic Violence situations. This service is also available to people experiencing sudden homelessness, health or financial crisis. 

We have a team of Volunteers who transport the animals to and from foster care and a team of Foster Carers who look after the animals in their home as part of their family. When clients are back on their feet and have suitable accommodation, we are able to reunite them with their pets. 

Since 2016, we have had almost 2,000 pets come through our foster care program. 

Safe Pets Safe Families is also working toward raising awareness and educating the community about the link between animal abuse and human violence. By working with the community and other organisations we can work towards stopping violence towards people and animals in our communities. 

Thousands of studies support the link between animal abuse and human abuse. 
  • 76% percent of animal abusers also abuse a family member. 
  • Research showed one-fifth of women significantly delayed leaving a violent relationship due to concern for the welfare of their animal. During this time of crisis, the connections women feel with their animals can become stronger. 

Can you tell us a bit more about your Paws & Pals program?

Paws & Pals is a program providing pop-up vet clinics, crisis programs, a pet food bank and outreach support services for people and their pets.

Companion animals are very important to people experiencing homelessness. Research has shown that pets reduce depression and they would be less likely to commit suicide, less likely to commit a crime and less likely to take drugs. 

And we all know that our pets give unconditional love, warmth and no judgement as well as encourage us to be more social.

We see Paws & Pals as a bit of a gateway service to people experiencing homelessness. 
We found that people experiencing homelessness with pets had some barriers to accessing support from organisations. We have been very successful in getting these pets into foster care so the people can access support and shelter. 

Since December 2016, around 800 pets have been seen by our volunteer vets and vet nurses through the Paws & Pals free pop-up vet clinics for people experiencing homelessness.

We only started collecting data in 2020 for our vet community fund and have provided almost 2,400 vet appointments since then.

Since 2016 we have delivered approximately 350,000 meals through our Pet Food Bank. Thanks to a donation from The Petspiration Foundation (formerly PETstock Assist) we were able to purchase a delivery van and recently expanded our Pet Food Bank service into the Riverland.

With a worsening housing crisis and the financial pressures many Aussies are under, are you seeing a larger need for your services?

We have registered a 300% increase in the demand for our services over the past two years and it has been hard to keep up and recruit volunteers.” shares Jennifer. Our whole community has been struggling; this year, 48% of our clients needing foster support also needed support due to a mental health crisis.
We have a huge need for Volunteers that are available during the day to transport pets to and from vets as well as to and from foster care. 

Some other immediate volunteering roles include food packers, marketing, IT support, finance, administration and casework across a few of our programs. We always need more dog groomers, vets and vet nurses and foster carers so please don't hesitate to reach out if you're able to assist.

If you’re interested in joining their team of passionate volunteers, click here
If you’re interested in joining their network of valuable foster carers, click here

"Ziggy and Lilly welcome every pet into our home with open paws." says Foster Carer Rhelma

For readers who are not in a position to volunteer, how can they help?

When you donate $25 to our Dogs Against Domestic Violence campaign, you will help pave the way for us to build a national response to help victims of domestic violence across Australia escape and keep their pets safe. 

Because, when a pet can escape abuse, so can the family. 
For Adelaide residents, don't miss our 3rd annual Quiz Night for Safe Pets Safe Families brought to you by our fun and outgoing bunch of volunteers. It will be held on Saturday 5th August 2023 at the Denison Centre in Mawson Lakes. You can enjoy fun, silly and interactive games during the night, not to mention a round of Bingo!

So what is next on the horizon for Safe Pets Safe Families?

“Currently, we primarily work in SA but have also supported cases interstate - we get many calls for interstate support. We have achieved so much in South Australia and we would love to take our vital service to the rest of the country.

We have a new program starting in June aimed at helping older people and their pets, supporting people through life transitions and beyond. I can't reveal any more details at this point but please stay tuned for a future announcement.”

What have you found personally has been the most rewarding part of running this charity?
“The most rewarding part of volunteering for me is knowing we are making a difference, changing and saving lives and restoring hope in people that had no hope.”

For more information, please head to the website:

You can follow @safepetssafefamilies on Instagram and on Facebook at

Related Stories:

Paws & Pals supports pets and families fleeing domestic violence

Pets in the Park Volunteers help the homeless care for their pets

National Volunteer Week 2023 (15-21 May): Saying Thank You!  


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