History of the Program:

The concept for creating written guidelines for housing families and pets of domestic violence together was created by Allie Phillips in the late-1990’s when she was a frontline assistant prosecuting attorney in Michigan. One particular domestic violence case resulted in her complaining victim walking hand-in-hand out of the courtroom with her defendant husband … all so that she could keep her two dogs and goat safe. This woman chose to stay in her abusive relationship after watching one of her dogs lose its life to violence. That case changed how Allie viewed victims of family violence. Unable to find any domestic violence shelters that would house pets, and no resources available, Allie knew something needed to be done and began developing guidelines for shelters to welcome family pets.

Research studies have shown that upwards of 65% of women refuse or delay leaving an abusive home out of fear of leaving their pets or livestock behind.  And when children are exposed to family violence and animal abuse in the home, they may be 8 times more likely to become a violent offender.

The solution? Transform family violence shelters to allow pets on-site with their families! It’s simpler than you think.

After training criminal justice professionals on this solution since 2004, Allie launched the first and only global initiative to address this problem in 2008. At that time, only four family violence shelters in the U.S. were known to house pets on-site with families. She published written guidelines to guide domestic violence shelter through the process of safely housing pets on-site with their families.

Currently, the SAF-T Start-Up Manual addresses 4 housing styles:

Option 1 = Placing pets in rooms with their family. Photo of High Desert Domestic Violence Program (Victorville, CA) where in-room pets have a pet door with access to an outdoor private kennel.

Option 2 = Creating an indoor kennel within the shelter. Photo of Shelter House Domestic Violence Center (Fort Walton Beach, FL).

Option 3 = Creating an outdoor kennel on the property of the shelter. Photo of AWARE, Inc. (Hermitage, PA).

Option 4 = Keeping pets with families in transitional housing. Photo of Rainy River District Women’s Shelter of Hope (Atikokan, Ontario, Canada).


Now SAF-T is a global initiative and non-profit educational organization with over 150 shelters in the United States, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain allowing pets on-site. But with approximately 1,900 shelters in the United States, and additional shelters worldwide, more needs to be done to keep families with pets safe.

Sheltering Animals & Families Together (SAF-T) was launched to help families and pets find their way to safety. SAF-T is endorsed by Ahimsa House, National District Attorneys Association, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Link Coalition, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, Pets of the Homeless, RedRoverSafety Network for Abused Animals and People and VioPet.

In 2019, SAF-T partnered with Banfield Foundation in its Safer Together Advisory Committee to expand on-site pet housing at domestic violence shelters and to raise awareness to veterinarians and communities regarding this issue.

Together, we are making a difference and saving lives.

Board of Directors

Allie Phillips (Founder, SAF-T)

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Dr. Nuria Querol (VioPet – Spain)

Lisa Velanovsky (PetConnect)

Carol Wick (former Executive Director, Harbor House – Orlando FL)

SAF-T Awards

SAF-T has received these awards for being a leader and innovator in co-housing people and pets of domestic violence.

2015 Top Defender of Animals from the Animal Legal Defense Fund

2018 Trailblazer award from Urban Resource Institute


Successful SAF-T Programs: The foundation for a successful SAF-T programs rests on a few basic principles:

(1) The family violence shelter partnering with a local animal shelter or animal rescue organization. This partnership will help if the shelter is unable to care for certain pets, as well as providing general guidance about animal sheltering care.

(2) The family violence shelter partnering with a veterinarian. This partnership will allow for incoming pets to receive a physical examination, basic medical care, medical care for injuries sustained from abuse, or to provide to expert testimony in court regarding animal abuse.

(3) The family violence shelter partnering with homeless agencies as too many victims with pets are experiencing homelessness.

(4) The family is the primary caretaker of their pet while staying at the family violence shelter. This alleviates concerns about residents and staff being injured by a stressed pet.

Download the SAF-T Start-Up Manual and learn how your shelter can protect more families today!

About the Founder of SAF-T:

Allie Phillips is a former Assistant Prosecuting Attorney from Lansing, Michigan where she handled a large number of family violence cases. While working as a prosecutor, she began volunteering in animal shelters and saw the connection between violence to people and animals first hand. Subsequently she joined  the National District Attorneys Association and trained/assisted prosecutors and criminal justice professionals on  prosecuting child abuse cases. At NDAA she created a training program on the link between violence to people and animals and how to house families with pets after violence. She started educating on the SAF-T concept in 2004 at numerous conferences.

Allie’s innovative work thrust her onto the national stage as she has championed the recognition of this “link” to prosecutors and other criminal justice professionals. Allie then joined the American Humane Association at their Vice President of Public Policy and subsequently as their Vice President of Human-Animal Strategic Initiatives where she launched her innovative program on how to transform family violence shelters to welcome families with pets. Allie then returned to the National District Attorneys Association where she founded and directed the National Center for Prosecution of Animal Abuse and was the Deputy Director/Interim Director for the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse.

In 2015, Allie was named a Top Defender of Animals by the Animal Legal Defense Fund for her innovation in creating the SAF-T Program.

Allie is now a legal consultant and Founder/CEO of SAF-T. She travels nationally and internationally to speak at conferences and help domestic violence shelters create on-site pet housing. She has been training criminal justice professionals since 1997 and has conducted over 400 trainings and published over 50 professional publications, including two books: Defending the Defenseless: A Guide to Protecting and Advocating for Pets (2011) and How Shelter Pets are Brokered for Experimentation: Understanding Pound Seizure (2010).

Allie’s professional and volunteer affiliations have included:

  • Liaison to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence;
  • Advisory Group for the Association of Professional Humane Educators;
  • Advisory Council to Denver Pet Partners;
  • Council Member of the Michigan State Bar Animal Law Section;
  • Executive Board of the National Coalition on Violence Against Animals;
  • Advisory Group for the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse;
  • Steering Committee for the National Link Coalition;
  • Board Member to the White Coat Waste Project;
  • Vice President of No Paws Left Behind;
  • Co-Founder of Michiganders for Shelter Pets;
  • Co-Founder of Friends of Ingham County Shelter Animals;
  • Volunteer and past-president of King Street Cats;
  • Volunteer with Capital Area Humane Society.