Providing Emergency Assistance for Pets and People in Crisis | RedRover


Providing Emergency Assistance for Pets and People in Crisis | RedRover

Wanna lend a hand in providing care for animals in crisis? You might want to become a volunteer for RedRover Responders.

national animal welfare nonprofit that acts like an American Red Cross for pets, RedRover helps animals and people in crisis. It provides assistance through emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, financial assistance, and education.


According to Nicole Forsyth, the President and CEO for RedRover,

“We’re there to help when people and animals are in crisis together. It could be a natural disaster. It could be a veterinary emergency, or it could be domestic violence. Domestic violence in pets is one of those areas that, unfortunately, through the pandemic, has grown even more. And so, we have paid more and more attention to this issue.”

The RedRover Programs

Having been around since 1987, RedRover started offering a plethora of grants for people in crisis even early on. It continuously works on innovating its programs to help neglected animals, animals that are caught up in natural disasters, and animals with life-threatening illnesses.


Some of its programs include RedRover Relief, RedRover Responders, and RedRover Readers.

Providing Emergency Assistance for Pets and People in Crisis RedRover


RedRover Relief preserves the human-animal bond by providing financial support and resources to DV survivors and individuals with low income.


The goal is for families to escape abuse together and remain in each other’s company and care. And the nonprofit organization makes this possible through Emergency Boarding Grants, Urgent Care Grants, Domestic Violence Safe Escape Grants, and Domestic Violence Housing Grants.


On the other hand, RedRover Responders is meant to be an emergency safety net for animals. Through the help of more than 4,000 volunteers, RedRover is able to provide shelter and care for animals displaced by natural disasters and other types of crises.


As for RedRover Readers, Nicole and her staff created it to provide educators the tools they need to teach children empathy skills and inspire kids to make the world a better place.


RedRover Against Domestic Violence

RedRover also assists domestic violence survivors who are seeking safety with their pets.

Providing Emergency Assistance for Pets and People in Crisis RedRover


Nicole shared,

“Domestic violence in pets is one of those areas that unfortunately, through the pandemic, has grown even more. And so, we have paid more and more attention to this issue, as we’ve learned just how much of a barrier it is for domestic violence shelters to actually not allow pets.”

Because DV is all about power and control, whether that’s through psychological or physical abuse, pets at home are almost always involved in domestic violence. According to Nicole, some abusers tend to use a victim’s relationship with their pets to the abusers’ advantage.


“There’s all these different kinds of threats that they might do. And sometimes, it’s a matter of just intimidating them, kicking them, not letting you have an ability to take care of them, not letting them go to the vet. So, there’s a whole range of behaviors that an abuser will do involving pets. And so, part of our job is to really help people understand what that looks like and also help domestic violence shelters understand how much of a barrier this is because people won’t leave.


To help DV shelters solve the unique challenges they face, RedRover provides safe housing grants that either build facilities for pets or help shelters develop pet-friendly programs in their community.


The animal welfare organization also works with DV advocates to ensure that each DV survivor gets the support they need while their pet is being housed safely.


When asked about what envisions for RedRover in the long run, Nicole had this to say:

“I’m really interested in the connection between human health and welfare and animal health and welfare. So, all of our programs do tend to kind of look for those areas in society where people and animals are at their most vulnerable, or there’s this connection there. There’s a reason why they’re in need, and there’s a lot of socio-economic variables that tie into this. And, of course, a lot of racial inequity that ties into this, too… And so, I’m looking forward to seeing how that’s going to help transform our work.”




Learn more about RedRover!

Visit their website at

Have suggestions for who we should interview next?

Send us a message at [email protected]!

Nicole: Hi, I’m Nicole Forsyth. I’m the President and CEO for Red Rover, and you’re tuning in to The Animal Innovations Show.

Chris: Excellent introduction, Nicole. So, tell us who you are and how you’re innovating and helping animals.

Nicole: So, Red Rover is kind of like the American Red Cross for pets. We’re here to help and people and animals are in crisis together. It could be a natural disaster. It could be a veterinary emergency, or it could be domestic violence. And domestic violence in pets is one of those areas that unfortunately through the pandemic has grown— you know, domestic violence has grown even more.

And so we have paid more and more attention to this issue as we’ve learned just how much a barrier it is for domestic violence shelters to actually not allow pets, many of them, up to 50% don’t allow pets.

So, we really have worked on this innovating— this new program to make sure domestic violence shelters can house pets on-site, or develop programs in their community.

Chris: Interesting. Yeah, I mean, I know we were talking, and before there’s been a lot of positives that have kind of come out of pandemic and certainly a lot of negatives. And this sounds like one of the latter, right? The domestic violence rates are up and people often forget that pets can be used as a weapon or get caught up in that.

Nicole: Definitely.

And a lot of people don’t realize just how prevalent domestic violence is. We know that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some kind of domestic violence or abuse in their lifetime. You know, it’s more common in people now. And then we also know 60 to 70% of homes have pets, and I think that’s increasing. I’d love to see that research now— we know that more people have pets in their homes through this pandemic. So, that number is probably even higher.

And the other thing that I didn’t even realize until we started to get into this more in-depth is that— because domestic violence is all about power and control, whether it’s psychological abuse or physical abuse pets, if they’re in the home, are almost always involved in domestic violence, they become part of the power and control.

And so sometimes people— especially if they have a close relationship with their pets, the closer the relationship, the more likely that relationship will be used against them in some way. So, an abuser might threaten the person to— you know, pay if you leave.

“I’m not going to take care of the pet.” r “I’m going to kill the pet.” “I’m going to get rid of the pet.”

So, there are all these different kinds of threats that they might do, and sometimes it’s a matter of just intimidating them, kicking them, not letting you have an ability to take care of them, not letting them go to the vet. So, there’s a whole range of behaviors that an abuser will do involving pets. So, part of our job is to really help people understand what that looks like, also helps domestic violence shelters, understand how much of a barrier this is— because people won’t leave.

We know there’s some research that up to 50% of people have reported not leaving or delaying leaving— simply because they knew their pets were gonna have to be left behind, and they knew they were going to be abused or threatened in some way.

So, we have this amazing program that just holds their hands to this whole process, gives them the resource and information they need, and helps them with all the new challenges they face.

Chris: Now, you said this was something that you really double down on, right with the pandemic. Was it a program that you guys had before the pandemic? And now it just moves more center stage.

Nicole: Yeah. And traditionally, Red Rover has been around since 1987. Pretty early on, started offering grants for just people in crisis. So, our tagline is: Bringing Animals from Crisis to Care. So, we’re very much like a crisis organization. And we knew domestic violence was one of those crises like we thought to come up, we offered grants.

But it wasn’t until we really started to see some of the research to just see— first of all, how prevalent domestic violence was, I had no idea— and also how much of a barrier it is to not have the pets go with the people. So, not only in terms of they won’t leave their abusive relationship, but also the pets are used to manipulate people to go back.

So, once we realized that we started to grow, we had some funding. We got some support to increase the size of our grants. So, we went from $3,000 to then $6,000 and now— and then $20,000. And now it’s up to $60,000. We’re just slowly increasing the support. But that really started happening around 2012. So, it’s been a while that we’ve been slowly doing it. But it’s just this year that we’ve increased to 60,000. So, starting with our October 15th grant cycle, domestic violence shelters can apply for up to $60,000.

So, super excited about that.

Chris: Tell us about the other programs and things, because you guys do so much. I mean, it’s really hard to cover it all.

Nicole: Some of our other programs are way more complicated. So— Chris: So, it’s the easy one.

Nicole: Yeah. That was the easy one.

Another program that we do is called Red Rover Readers. This program really is kind of my Brainchild, and it is more like: If only this happened, the future would look like this. Like it’s a much bigger kind of long-term goal, which I’m very passionate about because I used to be a teacher. So, for me changing kids, is changing the future. And so I’m really passionate about that.

We developed this really innovative program that is designed to help kids understand animal emotions so that they can feel empathy for them. But we have a kids magazine called Kind News, which is so visual that it makes it a little easier to at least say, “Hey, we’ve got this magazine.” Kids can really engage with it and learn about animals and answer questions about how they might feel. And that’s kind of where we leave it.

Chris: I love this because it’s the long game, right? If you teach kids early and you teach them how to understand emotions and deal with emotions. And as you said, be empathetic. They’re pretty smart, right? They’ll figure out pretty quick what’s going on with the pet, and they’ll apply it to their sister or brother or parents or whatever.

And that has such far-reaching implications. That’s brilliant. Are there other programs that you want to mention since we’re talking about all the programs?

Nicole: Yeah. So, we also— we haven’t talked much about but we used to be most known for— was our Red Rover responders program, and this helps shelter animals during natural disasters, or other kinds of cruel situations. Anytime a community is overwhelmed by a large number of animals, our volunteers go there. They help set up temporary shelters. They take care of them, walk them, feed them— all of that kind of stuff.

We also have been sending our volunteers, to domestic violence shelter builds. So, in addition to providing a grant to domestic violence shelters, we sometimes partner with other— with another organization called: Greater Good Charities. And they have a program that has all of the construction and expertise when it comes to actually building, which we don’t have. But we partner with them. We send our volunteers, they send their experts, and we build it together, which is an amazing, very feel-good experience.

And so now our Red Rover Responders volunteers, get to not only help with these natural disasters, there are other kinds of situations. They also get to learn how to do construction. So, that’s been another great program that we continue to develop.

Chris: I love the fact that these programs— seem so very desperate but they all tie in together. And I can absolutely see the tie-ins and their feeling of one another, I mean— the fact that you’re using these volunteers to actually help build new domestic violence shelters, it’s amazing to me how they all interweaved.

It’s amazing the work that you guys are doing to really started a young level, and get people to recognize it and understand that. And these are— they’re animals, yes,  but they’re sentient beings, they have feelings and desire and things like that. And so, it’s fascinating to see that this is finally taking over since where it was— you know, when you and I were younger, many years ago. It’s nice to see where this is heading. What’s next for you guys, what does the future look like?

Nicole: Well, we’re really excited about this partnership with Purina, which we haven’t talked about yet. But Purina has helped us developed this new initiative called, “ThePurple Leash Project,” and this is— because Purina is— Purina as one of the most recognizable brands out there. They are helping us build awareness about the relationship between pets and domestic violence and a lot of The Purple Leash Project language is on some of their brands. It’s in TV commercials, dog show commercials like it’s been amazing. And so now we have more and more supporters coming to us because they hear about it through this Purple Leash Project. And people can join, they can become a monthly donor, and get an actual “Purple Leash,” so it’s all branded with Purina and Red Rover and has our tagline: Walk Heal Together. Because of their support—and it’s been multi-year support. And it’s not just money, they are really helping us build our infrastructure, increase our marketing and we’re just learning so much through them, that we’re able to take this relatively small national, non-profit and make a pretty big dog food brand. And so, I can only see us expanding and growing at this point. Enlargely because of their support.

Chris: So, Nicole, if people want to learn more, they want to get involved. They want to become a volunteer or donor. Tell them how to get a hold of you, find you guys.

Nicole: REDROVER.ORG is the best place to start. We’re on pretty much all the social media channels as well, and you can follow us. One of the best ways to help during a national disaster is to share our resources. So, we’re known for compiling natural disaster resources. If there’s a fire or anything, so people with pets know quickly, where to go if they do need to evacuate. So, even the American Red Cross will share our list because it’s something that we’re becoming known for kind of— getting that out there quickly. And so the more people follow us and share that, the more information gets out there.

There’s also a ton of ways to help with domestic violence in pets. So, a lot of times people may know somewhat because it’s so common, people may know someone in a relationship or they might even be in one themselves and not realize it.

We have a lot of resources around. How do you know if you’re an abusive relationship that involves pets?  We have the resources of veterinarians. We have resources for hairdressers, who are actually one of the most commonly told— people about domestic violence just because of that nice, confident kind of relationship. And so, we have a lot of resources that can be shared.

 In addition, we have a website called SAFEPLACEFORPETS.ORG that has a database of all of the pet-friendly resources and programs for people. So, definitely encourage people to join us. Follow us on social media. Sign up for our email.

All of this is at REDROVER.ORG

Chris: Well, Nicole, I really appreciate you coming on today and sharing all this and tying it all together. And before we wrap up, I’ll remind our viewers and listeners, If you’ve got an innovative idea or know somebody I should talk to, just go to INNOVATIONS.SHOW and let me know and I’ll get them on the show and talk to them.

So, thanks again for coming on Nicole. It’s great to talk to you.

Nicole: Thank you. Great to talk with you.

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