Domestic Violence Survivors Should Not Have to Leave Their Pets Behind - Purple Leash Project's Mission

nina leigh sitting on a park bench with a black dog

It’s no secret that pets make life better — ‘Pets and People are Better Together’ is a core belief at Purina. I can’t imagine not having my dogs Guinness and Caffery in my life, much less being faced with a decision to choose between their safety or my own. That decision is being made every day by domestic abuse survivors who want to leave but can’t because there’s no safe place to go with their pets. Today, only 15% of domestic violence shelters in the United States allow pets. We want to change that.

In 2019, Purina announced a partnership with the national nonprofit RedRover and launched the Purple Leash Project — aimed at raising awareness and increasing the number of pet friendly domestic violence shelters in the United States. One in three women and one in four men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, making it a prevalent problem that is causing far too many of our friends and neighbors, and their pets, to suffer in silence.

Purina and RedRover are on a mission to keep survivors of domestic violence and their pets together to protect the bond they share.

The Power of Pets

The physical and emotional health benefits of having a pet are well documented, so when we think about how trauma might impact the relationship — or bond — between a person and their pet, it is easy to understand why there are so many reasons, especially out of fear for a pet’s safety, why a pet owner wouldn’t want to leave a pet with an abuser. Pets are a source of comfort and unconditional love for survivors, including children who are witnessing or experiencing abuse.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 71% of pet owners entering domestic violence shelters report that their abuser had threatened, injured, or killed family pets. This is why nearly 48% of survivors will delay leaving abuse if they cannot take their pet with them.

Domestic violence survivor Jill struggled to leave her abuser, but her dog Scarlett played an important role in her ultimate decision. “The most amazing thing about Scarlett is her emotional intuition. She helped me get out of my situation because Scarlett was getting physically ill from living in violence and fear,” said Jill. The impact of the abuse on Scarlett gave Jill the courage to leave. “I left with pretty much nothing except my dog and my car. I would have given up my car before I would have given up Scarlett.”

Luckily, Jill was able to find a safe haven with Scarlett at a domestic violence facility that had recently been updated by Purina volunteers to become pet-friendly. Today, they continue to heal together.

Supporting Survivors, Driving Change

Purina learned about the impact of domestic abuse on pets and pet owners and the barriers that exist in finding pet friendly services for victims nearly a decade ago, and we knew we had to help. The more we learned about the role pets play in a domestic abuse victim’s decision to leave her (or his) abuser, the more we knew Purina’s voice and passion could help make a difference.

We started by working with the largest provider of domestic violence services in New York City. Together, we’ve created pet-friendly spaces at their shelters and helped them design the nation’s first domestic violence shelter where every apartment is pet-friendly.

In 2018, Purina also helped found the PAWS Act Coalition, a group of companies and not-for-profit organizations working to increase awareness and support legislation to promote more pet-friendly domestic violence shelters. The PAWS Act was signed into law as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Purina, and PAWS Act Coalition members continue to advocate for federal funding of the grant program, now operated through the Department of Justice, that is helping domestic violence shelters across the country become pet-friendly.

We have also been working with some of the nation’s leaders in domestic violence services to make shelters pet-friendly — volunteering our time, labor, and expertise in pet behavior to help look at this issue from a pet perspective to create pet-inclusive environments that are safe and welcoming. Strides have been made through the work of many, certainly not just us. As our knowledge increases, so does our passion for helping victims with pets become survivors.

Grab a Purple Leash

Through the Purple Leash Project, we want to be a change agent helping domestic abuse survivors and their pets walk away from abuse and heal together. The Purple Leash Project is challenging us to work against a different kind of bottom line, one with the potential to change society and challenge the way that pets and pet owners are treated when they need each other most.

We cannot do it alone.

Visit for more ways to get involved, stay informed or to donate to RedRover to support this important work.

Nina Leigh Krueger, CEO and President at Nestlé Purina North America

As President and CEO of Nestlé Purina PetCare U.S., Nina Leigh Krueger leads the organization’s vision to be the world’s most trusted company in enriching the lives of pets and the people who love them. She began her career at Purina in 1993 as an intern and has since served in many key roles, working to elevate key global brands, bring innovation to market, and lead priority initiatives to strengthen the business. When Nina Leigh is not spending time with her family, she is active in her community, serving on multiple boards and executive committees of various non-profit organizations.

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