SWFL nonprofits partner to help victims and pets of domestic abuse

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

It’s already a difficult decision leaving an abusive relationship. That’s why a new partnership between two groups that deal with abuse make that decision a little easier.

The Abuse Counseling & Treatment Center (ACT) in Fort Myers and Operation Pet Rescue in Lehigh Acres have joined together to help victims of domestic violence and their beloved pets escape abusive situations safely. ACT says many victims of domestic violence worry about leaving their pets behind.

“They don’t know what to do with their pet, and they refuse to leave their pet behind in an abusive situation,” said Megan Dalabes with ACT. “They can now enter our shelter, and their pet will go with operation pet rescue.”

Jen Buffington is the director of Operation Pet Rescue. She says, if someone’s capable of domestic violence, they’re likely capable of abusing the family pet.

“Not only do we want to get the victim out, we want them to be able to get their family pet out,” Buffington said. “It’s incredibly important for them and for the pet.”

This program started when one of Buffington’s close friends was going through abuse and didn’t want to leave her pet behind.

“I’m so honored to be able to help these people because it isn’t, you know, of course, it’s all about the pets,” Buffington said. “We’re all about the pets, but there’s more than just the pets. It’s about the people and their pets.”

Operation Pet Rescue is able to hold pets for domestic violence survivors for three months or longer.

Since this is a free service, OPR is asking for donations and volunteers to help grow the program. For more information and to see how to contribute, visit the Operation Pet Rescue website.

Only a handful of victims have taken advantage of the new program. But Buffington realizes it’s likely a handful who may not have asked for help otherwise.

“To be able to make that happen for them is just amazing,” Buffington said.


  • Operation Pet Rescue – 239-264-9577
  • ACT 24 hour crisi hotline – 239-939-3112
  • Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-500-1119

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