Fostering Hope

Third-year veterinary science students Jamie Foster and Alyssa Felton raise awareness for Aggies Fostering Hope during First Friday.

A new cooperative between students and faculty of Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine is educating the community on the connection between domestic violence and pet abuse.

Aggies Fostering Hope has three goals: foster animals who are victims of abuse in domestic violence situations, teach veterinary professionals about the link between domestic violence and pet abuse, and educate the general public through community outreach to raise overall awareness of this issue.

The organization’s outreach chair Alyssa Felton, a third-year veterinary medicine student, said the organization teaches students about the scientific connection between pet abuse and domestic violence.

“Eighty-five percent of women entering shelters reported their partner had threatened, injured or killed a family pet,” Felton said. “They stay in the situation because the one positive relationship they have is with that animal, and if they left that animal, they know something bad would happen to it.”

The vet school fosters the animals while Aggies Fostering Hope works to connect the pets’ owners with them through social workers and Phoebe’s Home, a shelter for female victims of domestic violence based in Bryan-College Station. Women can visit their pets in a secure environment at the vet school, and anonymity is kept to ensure the victims’ security. The animal’s medical assistance is taken care of by various donors.

The idea for Aggies Fostering Hope was formed last year between Hunter Greer, a fourth-year veterinary science student, and Dr. Karen Cornell, the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. Melodie Raese and Jamie Foster, third-year veterinary science students, took Greer and Cornell’s idea further while taking a community outreach elective course offered by the college. Raese and Foster developed a plan to help those in domestic violence situations while also educating veterinary professionals.

“Vets are the first who see potential situations where a dog keeps coming in with problems, or they have a client that jumps from vet to vet,” Felton said. “When veterinarians can identify and address pet abuse is possibly happening in a home, they can make available opportunities for clients because most of the time the victim is who is bringing the pet into the vet.”

The organization created brochures to give to visiting veterinary professionals that include several Texas-based resources for those experiencing domestic violence. The idea is for vets to take these brochures back to their clinics to make these resources available to clients who may be exhibiting signs of pet abuse or domestic violence.

Felton said raising awareness and donations for this issue is something close to her heart because it offers victims the opportunity to start over.

“I would never leave my dog behind somewhere, and I can just imagine how hard that can be on someone else,” Felton said. “Being able to help an animal and the person who loves them to start a better life, that’s what a vet really means to me: helping the animal and their person.”

The College of Veterinary Medicine is always accepting donations for the fostered animals. Aggies Fostering Hope encourages everyone to learn more about the link between pet abuse and domestic violence, and asks the campus community to spread awareness of this issue by liking their Facebook page.

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