November 15, 2016
By: Traci Picard
Imagine yourself in crisis. You’ve had an experience which leaves you feeling unsafe at home. You need to evacuate. You’ve been called into active duty for the military. For one or many reasons, you need to go somewhere else. What will you do with your pet?
Jordan Ross is trying to help answer this question. He identified the need through his own struggle to escape domestic violence. During a difficult time, he was able to find a safe foster home for his dog, Jazz, while he worked to find another safe place to live. Eventually they were reunited. This got him thinking… are others facing the same problem?
They are. Loss of a pet has been identified as a barrier to leaving an abusive situation. Because we have relationships with our pets. They are animals, yes, but family members too. The pet may be a source of comfort to us. They may provide us with protection. And we may fear for their care, even their safety, in our absence. There may be a real concern that the abuser will turn their anger towards the pet.
Jordan founded PetsEmpower to provide a solution. It is an organization which advocates for pet owners in crisis. Jordan and his team provide educational resources to a wide range of partner organizations such as domestic violence agencies, hotlines, law enforcement officers and social workers. “This creates an opening for dialogue,” he says. Workers on the ground are able to support those in need by sharing that they don’t need to choose between their safety and their pet. With a system of referrals, a network of volunteers to foster and advocate and an outreach effort that helps talk back to the stigma of victimhood, PetsEmpower is helping to raise awareness and provide affirmation that this barrier is real.
Jordan, who is a SEG Hub scholarship recipient, from the Boston area who now lives in Rhode Island, built this social enterprise by forming coalitions with non-profits in the field as well as advisors and volunteers. He also brings veterinarians and boarding kennels into the conversation. “It feels affirming to me that there is a community of people who want to make a difference.”
Right now, there are opportunities to get involved. We can all contribute to helping people and pets by spreading the word about PetsEmpower. We can work to de-stigmatize the experience of being in crisis. And we can help PetsEmpower find fosters and financial support, or donate care and supplies that pets might need. Additionally, Jordan is collecting stories via his website, podcast and blog. Share your experience to the hashtag #howpetsempower and follow PetsEmpower on Facebook and Twitter to see what others are sharing.
The pets of SEG staff would also like to share an important message. If you are in crisis, you are not alone. Whether or not you have a pet, help is available. To learn more, here is a link to PetsEmpower, the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Rhode Island’s local Coalition Against domestic Violence.
Venture Development Assistant
Traci Picard is a VISTA serving as Venture Development assistant here at SEG. She comes from the world of alternative health, running a small herbal business and teaching classes like Critical Thinking for Herbalists and Asking Better Questions. Traci is also a writer pursuing a Journalism degree, a mother of 3 and a passionate fan of books and the Public Library. Born in Providence, she has lived all over but continues to return home.