The State of Housing Pets of Intimate Partner Violence and Safe Pet Keeping Programs

8:15 AM - 10:15 AM
Location: Chelsea Hotel, Churchill Ballroom

Sammy Cisek, Community Engagement Worker, Interval House of Ottawa
Dayna Desmarais, President, SafePet Ottawa
Dr. Amy Fitzgerald, PhD. Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Windsor
Nicole Forsyth, President and CEO, Red Rover
Doug Raven, CEO, OVMA with Hayley Glaholt, Board Chair, Link Toronto
Leanne Sillers, Animal Safekeeping Coordinator, Saskatchewan SPCA



  1. Understand what solutions and models for sheltering the pets of domestic violence survivors are offered.
  2. Understand the key barriers and limitations domestic violence shelters experience when attempting to shelter pets on- or off-site and how these may be addressed.
  3. Learn where the most need exists for pet programs to house the victims of intimate partner violence.

Sammy Cisek
is the community engagement worker at Interval House of Ottawa, a domestic violence women's shelter based in Ottawa. She manages the fundraising, public engagement and education for the organization and believes in the power of authentic & honest storytelling to help donors feel a part of the organizations they support. Hailing from the world of professional sports, Sammy decided to make the switch to the non profit sector to better align her career with her values. An avid animal lover, and mother to a dog and a turtle, Sammy was drawn to Interval House of Ottawa and their animal housing program.

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. She began working with animals by fostering for rescues in 2009. In 2012 she opened a pet sitting company focused on providing the highest standards of care to all 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. 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. With all of this passion combined Dayna has accepted the position of Program Coordinator for the National Centre for the Prosecution of Animal Cruelty and the Canadian Violence Coalition at Humane Canada. She is grateful to be a part of such a power house team and looks forward to making a difference for all of Canada’s animals. If Dayna has learned anything in her years of working with animals, it’s that we can do better, for all animals. Her passion for animals and animal welfare has grown with every new day, and she doesn't see that momentum slowing down anytime soon.

Amy Fitzgerald, PhD is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology, and is cross-appointed to the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, at the University of Windsor. She is also a founding member of the University of Windsor’s Animal and Interpersonal Abuse Research Group (AIPARG). Her research focuses on the intersection of harms (criminal and otherwise) perpetrated against people, non-human animals, and the environment. She has published extensively in the fields of critical animal studies, green criminology, environmental sociology, and gender studies. Her most recent books include Animal Advocacy and Environmentalism: Understanding and Bridging the Divide (2018; Polity Press) and Animals as Food: (Re)connecting Production, Processing, Consumption, and Impacts (2015; Michigan State University Press). Fitzgerald is the recipient of the Distinguished Scholarship Award from the Animals and Society section of the American Sociological Association and the Mid-Career Outstanding Faculty Research Award from the University of Windsor. Her collaborative work on animal abuse is currently being funded through three Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grants.

Nicole Forsyth has been President and CEO of RedRover since 2006, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Sacramento, CA that brings animals from crisis to care and strengthens the bond between people and pets throughout the United States and parts of Canada. To better reflect its work and expanding programs, she led the organization through a major rebranding effort in 2011, which successfully laid the groundwork for current growth initiatives. RedRover now has a staff of 22 and a budget of $4 million, its largest to date. Nicole’s combined experience in nonprofit management, scientific research, education and hands-on animal care has helped develop the strategic focus of the organization which seeks positive, innovative solutions to ameliorate suffering, prevent animal abuse and create a more compassionate society for all. Committed to applying research and data to her work, she holds a master of science degree in animal biology/welfare from the University of California, Davis. She also holds a master’s degree in Communication from the University of Maine and a bachelor’s degree in English and Education from the University of Colorado. Nicole previously worked in fund development for the Placer SPCA in Roseville, California and was the development director for a habitat conservation organization in Montana. She has also worked as a classroom teacher of middle-school and at-risk high-school students.

Doug Raven has been the CEO of the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association for the past 21 years. During his tenure, Doug has championed a variety of initiatives to assist pet owners and pets in need, including the SafePet Program, which helps women leave abusive partners by arranging for temporary housing and care for their pets. Since 2002, Doug has also been the Executive Director of the association’s charitable arm, the Farley Foundation, which has disbursed over $4.2 million to subsidize the cost of veterinary care for 10,000 low income pet owners, including seniors, people with disabilities, individuals on welfare, and women at risk of abuse.

Leanne Sillers is a Registered Social Worker who has worked in the field of domestic violence for 11 years. She recently began at the Saskatchewan SPCA in a newly created position to address a gap in services related to animals and domestic violence. Leanne's passion for animals and the belief in the healing power of pets led her to certifying her 5 year old golden retriever, Jack, as a therapy dog. He is used in group settings, or with individual clients. Leanne and Jack had the opportunity to spend time in Humboldt, Saskatchewan immediately after the tragic bus accident. When Leanne isn't working or volunteering with Jack she enjoys spending time with family and friends on her acreage outside of Saskatoon