BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (KMSP) - For nearly 20 years, Pet Crossing Animal Hospital of Bloomington has partnered with a Twin Cities women's shelter, providing a safe haven for pets of domestic abuse survivors.
According to Dr. Kate Knutson, they agree to care for the pets until the owner is back on their feet.
"It takes one huge emotional thing off their plate so they can work on getting themselves back together," says Knutson.
Knutson says they never meet the pet owner, or even learn their name, but they care for their four-legged child as if it was their own.
"A lot of times when they come here they'll be a little bit anxious and worried and shy and it's fantastic to watch them blossom," said Pet Crossing employee Ellie Elsasser.
The hospital covers all their veterinary care for free and agrees to keep the pet as long as needed.
"We had one dog that stayed with us for almost two years," said Knutson. "That was a woman who was being very severely abused and they moved her around to shelters across the United States until her abuser was jailed. At that point, she got her dog back."
The majority of shelters do not allow pets and often, the victim fears for the pet's safety if they leave them behind.
"It's one way that someone who is the abuser is able to hang onto the abused. They are dangling a child, a four legged friend and saying I have this, I have control of it, and if you don't stay with me I'm going to do very bad things," said Knutson.
If the owner decides they can no longer care for the animal, or if efforts to contact the owner after they leave the shelter are unsuccessful, the animal hospital puts the pet up for adoption.
"Unfortunately with some of the stories and situations we've heard, it's not only the owners going through tough times it's also their pets," said Elsasser.
Hospital staff send letters to the pet owner throughout the animal's stay, updating them on their care and wellbeing.
With safety and privacy the primary concern, Dr. Knutson and her staff have never witnessed a reunion, but she says, just knowing they are providing a little bit of relief is enough for her.