How to Help - Human Shelters

Become a SafePet Ontario human shelter or transitional home partner

For many, human shelters or transitional homes are the first point of contact for someone experiencing domestic violence.

In Ontario, almost half of those experiencing violent situations delay leaving their partner or don’t leave at all because they’re afraid to leave their pet behind at the hands of their abuser.  Pets are targeted by abusive parties, in order to control and coerce the human victim. To help people and pets find safety sooner, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association established the SafePet Ontario program in 2003.

SafePet Ontario enables survivors to focus on their transition to safety by offering foster placements for their companion animals. Pets participating in the program will be placed in loving homes with experienced foster families that can provide care targeted to a pet’s needs. Once a survivor has transitioned safely and are ready, SafePet Ontario will reunite them with their beloved pet so that they can move into a better future together.

To support survivors and pets in transition, SafePet Ontario relies on a network of volunteers, including pet foster families, veterinary teams, law enforcement agencies, and human and animal shelters. In addition, through ongoing awareness and education initiatives, cross-sector collaboration, SafePet Ontario continues to build upon its strong, provincial-wide network to support the growing demand of those in need.

By joining the SafePet Ontario network, you can help survivors and their companions live a life free from violence.

Group of people holding hands in unity and support.

How does the program work?

  • Survivors must contact an authorized organization to request enrollment in the SafePet Ontario program.
  • The referral agent must be listed on the SafePet Ontario enrollment form, referral agents must be willing to work with SPO during the entirety of the survivors transition to safety. 
  • Once a survivor and their pet are enrolled in the SafePet Ontario program, and a foster family that suits the pet’s needs has been found, the survivor will drop their pet off at an agreed-upon location.
  • A veterinarian will perform a free health examination, and administer any needed vaccinations, once the pet has been dropped off. From there, the pet will then be transferred to their foster family (where they will stay until the survivor is re-established).
  • When the survivor is ready, a SafePet Ontario representative will arrange to reunite the pet with their owner.
The Role of the Referral Agent

Referral agents are essential to the SafePet network. All clients must have an authorized referral agent in order to enroll their pet and access care. We rely on referral agents in the following ways:

  1. Include a discussion about pets into your intake process. Understanding the clients needs and their potential barriers to seeking assistance is essential to being able to match those needs to available services.
  2. Assist with explaining the SafePet program to the client.
  3. Assist with enrolling the client and their pet into care.
  4. Assist with safety planning and transportation logistics.


Referral agents are mandatory for every client in order to ensure:

  • There is a confidential case for support. (the client is fleeing a violent situation)
  • The client is receiving profession support with their transition to safety.
  • Act as a source of communication, in the instance we are unable to speak with the client directly.
  • Notify us if the client removes themselves from the program, changes to another program, or stops responding to your communications.



  • In order to gain your ‘authorized referral agent’ status we need every member of your team to enroll in training to understand how the program works and how to share program information with their clients.
  • Sign up online to access the ‘SafePet for Referral Agents’ course:
  • Each team member can sign up and digest the information at their own speed. All enrollments are free.

Please note, you will not be able to help clients access care until your training has been completed. This is for the safety of all parties involved.

    • The final step of the authorization process is to set up a meeting with the Provincial Program Manager. Here we will answer any further questions or concerns you may have and finalize your organizations enrollment into the program. Book that meeting here:


To learn more about how you can help a survivor access SafePet Ontario assistance, review our Frequently Asked Questions.

To sign up as an authorized agent please click the ‘learn more’ button below.

Become a Human Shelter Partner