DAFS director receives international recognition for ‘pet’ program

PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - The director of a Pine Belt domestic violence shelter recently received international recognition for the organization’s “pet” program.

Becky Stewart, the executive director of the Domestic Abuse Family Shelter (DAFS), was a guest presenter at the 18th Annual Crimes Against Women Conference in downtown Dallas. At the conference, she was recognized for DAFS’s efforts to make their shelters pet-inclusive.

“Survivors of domestic violence tell us that pets play a significant role in their ability to survive and heal from trauma,” Stewart said. “By allowing victims to bring their pets to the shelter, we are assisting them and their children with the healing process.”

In partnership with Greater Good Charities, RedRover and Rescue Rebuild, DAFS converted their shelters to pet-inclusive two years ago. It allowed shelter residents to room with their pets and provided kennels and enclosed play yards for when the resident needed to leave their pets at the shelter.

Funded through a grant and donated construction work, DAFS became one of Mississippi’s first domestic violence agencies to welcome pets.

According to DAFS, around half of all domestic violence victims with pets will not leave an animal behind with the abuser. Policies that allow victims to bring their pets to a shelter help keep the pet safe and allow the survivor to have the pets’ comfort while healing from the trauma.

DAFS serves domestic violence survivors from eleven counties, including Jones, Forrest, Lamar, Covington, Greene, Marion, Wayne, Perry, Jasper, Smith and Jefferson Davis. They provide emergency shelter, counseling for adults and children, clothing, case management, food, childcare and pet care at no charge.