Companion Animal Fostering for Those Fleeing Domestic Violence: When A Community Comes Together

SUNDAY, APRIL 9, 1:45-2:30PM

Dayna Desmarais, Owner, AY Chihuahua!, Vice President, SafePet Ottawa
Ayala Sher, President, SafePet Ottawa

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. Upon exiting a shelter, we reunite owners with their pets so that they can move into a better future together. There has been a proven link between domestic violence and animal abuse. In Ontario, 48% of women who want to exit from situations of domestic violence delay leaving or won’t leave at all for fear that their pets may be beaten or killed. SafePet Ottawa provides rapid response for women exiting from domestic violence, and our protocols are designed in response to the needs of survivors. SafePet Ottawa is a collaboration of all sectors of the companion animal community. We are a nationally-registered charity based in Ottawa.

Three Key Learnings:
1. Proven link between domestic violence and animal abuse and how it will affect your efforts.
2. Rapid response and protocols designed in response to the needs of survivors.
3. How to collaborate with all sectors of the companion animal community to implement an effective plan.


Dayna Desmarais has always been an avid animal lover and advocate. She grew up in a home with cats, dogs and, on occasion, other small furry and scaled critters. When she was a teenager, her mother began to foster rescue dogs, and Dayna’s deep admiration of the intelligence and resilience of these creatures was awakened, as was her thirst for knowledge regarding the ways we can guide and influence their behaviours. Since then, she has worked hard to educate herself and learn about the welfare, behaviour and general care of our companion animals. She is the proud fur-mom to her three chihuahuas: Taco, Benito and Potamus, as well as a Frenchie/Boston mix: Gage.

In 2014, she started an apprenticeship to become a certified Canine Behaviour Consultant with Pet Intel Behaviour Centre and graduated in early 2016. She is also a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS), and has completed certificate programs in Canine Emotion & Cognition from Duke University, as well as Animal Behaviour & Welfare from the University of New Edinburgh. She is a professional member of the CAPPDT (Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers) and is a standing member with Pet Sitters International (PSI). She is President of Dayna's Pet Sitting Inc., an in-home pet sitting service in the Ottawa area, a partner with The Canine Habitat, a boarding home for dogs in beautiful Perth, Ontario and Vice-President for SafePet Ottawa, an organization helping men, women and children fleeing domestic violence by fostering their animals.

Ayala Sher is a former education and outreach director at the Ottawa Kennel Club. She is a retired teacher with an honours BA in History & Philosophy of Religion. She is delighted at how well both the rescue and the kennel club community have come together to create and support SafePet Ottawa and is incredibly proud to be its President and founder. Ayala was awarded the 2016 OVMA Members' Award for founding SafePet Ottawa.