As a young boy, Joseph Pabst always had the loving companionship of pets; a Dachshund dog in particular was the beginning of it all. Through the many challenges that life gives, having loving companionship makes things a little more comforting.
Joseph grew up with two sisters, sadly losing one later in life. His late sister was a victim of domestic violence and this, in particular was instrumental in his hopes of bringing awareness to the connection between pets and domestic abuse.
When incidents of violence happened, Joseph’s sister would adopt a new animal; collecting everything from farm animals and horses to house pets and dogs. These pets gave her companionship and security. Tying her deeper into staying where she was – to take care of her loved animals – despite the abusive situation. From experiences and seeing the impact animals had on his sister, Joseph saw a theory developing and went in front of Sojourner Family Peace Center and the Wisconsin Humane Society to back research, strengthening this theory. From the confidential findings, the study found that “over 70% of victims of domestic violence reported [with pets] that the abuser had threatened to hurt, injure or kill the animal.”
The theory was solidified and Joseph was prompted to start a program called Safe Haven. It wasn’t a solution to the problem, but a means to remove at least one obstacle for a short period of time in which a victim can seek shelter, knowing that their pet(s) are safe. In abusive relationships, people may rely on the constant affection of their pets, yet they stay in that situation when their pets’ lives are threatened. It’s a pattern that’s difficult to leave.
The program has found much success, being described as salvation and a way for people to move forward, allowing for another chance. At first, Joseph would have been satisfied with the program saving one person. In the last year, it has helped many people and their pets find safety, something he wishes would have been possible for his sister.
Nothing can change the past, but we can change the future…to me, the primary hero is my sister who had an extraordinary capacity to love.”
*Photo provided by Front Room Photography