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Aurora expands program protecting pets in crisis situations

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AURORA, Colo. -- The animal services division in Aurora is on a mission to help save not only pets in crisis situations, but people as well.

The expansion of a pet safe haven program in the city aims to protect four-legged friends while providing valuable resources to victims of domestic violence.

The program is nothing new, but it is being administered in a new way.

“What we really wanted to do was look at what barriers we had,” Aurora Animal Services director Jenee Shipman said.

The program houses animals owned by victims of abuse or mental health issues. It has been in Aurora since the late 1990s.

Shipman said it has only recently had a true impact.

“We had maybe one or two [pets] a year,” Shipman said. “I know there’s more domestic violence going on than just one case a year -- or just one person who has an animal.”

Shipman said she took a good look at the program after being hired in 2014. She has shifted it into high gear.

Studies show domestic violence and animal abuse often go hand in hand, according to Shipman. Abusers are also known to control their victims by threatening the life of a pet.

“Women do not leave those abusive situations because there’s an animal in the home,” she said.

Police are trained to investigate potential animal abuse when sent on domestic violence calls.

To create a bigger impact, Aurora Animal Services has a stronger partnership with police, battered women’s shelters and area district attorney offices.

In 2015, the program's expansion saw six cases in 2016. So far in 2017, 30 animals have been placed at the Aurora Animal Shelter for their protection.

Part of the equation also includes taking away barriers of entry.

“A two-week period of time is a short period of time for those individuals to be able to find a safe place,” Shipman said. “We didn’t see a lot of numbers coming in.”

Pets are now welcomed indefinitely whether they’ve been spayed or neutered. The shelter offers those services.

Shipman said the newfound success hasn’t led to any serious challenges such as lack of space.