Escaping Together: Safe Housing Networks for Pets Fleeing Domestic Violence


Dayna Desmarais, President, SafePet Ottawa
Kia Rainbow, Executive Director, Interval House of Ottawa

Interval House of Ottawa is creating an innovative and groundbreaking animal co-housing program. Housing pets with their families in a shelter for victims of violence will allow for an increase in the support system for women and children fleeing abuse. It has been proven that the human-animal bond is critical during times of stress and trauma. Animals provide emotional support, accelerating the healing process of both women and children. During stressful situations, some people benefit more from a pet’s companionship than from a human friend. Keeping families together, including the family pet, provides a sense of continuity, security and safety.

Key Learnings:

  1. Building/increasing space within VAW shelters to house much-loved family pets.
  2. Attending to fears and allergies of all people in a community living environment.
  3. The importance of partnerships in a project such as this.


Dayna Desmarais has been a life-long animal lover and advocate. She believes in a humane Canada. Her life has been dedicated to working with animals in numerous capacities which she began by working with fostering for rescues in 2009. In 2012, she opened a pet-sitting company focused on providing the highest standards of care to animals in the Ottawa area. Shortly after that, she began an apprenticeship studying canine behaviour science in a more hands-on approach. While making great personal accomplishments in those fields, she also completed courses from Duke University in Canine Emotion & Cognition, as well as from the University of Edinburgh in Animal Welfare and Behaviour.

The year 2013 sparked the beginning of Dayna's involvement with SafePet Ottawa, where she sat on the Board as their Vice President for 3 years before being voted in as their President in 2017. It was through this young non-profit organization that she learned more about the link between domestic violence and animal abuse. It became apparent to her that more needed to be done to raise attention and awareness to the link between domestic violence and animal abuse.

The inspiration and motivation to make a difference for the treatment of animals came not only through Dayna's love for them, but also through her mother's. Dayna's mom inspires her every day to do more, to be better and to embody the true attributes of an animal advocate. Because of her mother's hard work to help rescue and rehabilitate animals throughout Dayna’s childhood, she has been blessed with the passion and drive to do the same. Read our interview with Dayna Rose-Desmarais here!

Kia Rainbow is the Executive Director of Interval House of Ottawa, a thirty-bed shelter for women and children fleeing violence. She has worked in the area of violence against women (VAW) for more than twenty-five years and, in that time, has researched, developed, implemented, managed and evaluated numerous VAW programs.

Today, Kia is putting her energies into creating an innovative and groundbreaking animal co-housing program at Interval House of Ottawa. The animal housing area will support women and their children fleeing violence to bring their beloved family pets into the shelter with them. Numerous studies explain why women who are bonded to their companion animals may choose to remain in violent homes in order to keep their pets safe. As well, allowing women and children to take their pets with them eliminates their need to return to the abusive home to protect their pets from the abusers’ calculated retaliation.