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She Helps Battered Women Break Free—By Sheltering Their Pets

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Christine Hartline, 38

Director, Animal Safehouse Program

A DISTURBING DISCOVERY: When Hartline was a volunteer at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society in Encinitas, Calif., in 2003, a woman came in with four kids, a dog, two cats and a turtle. She’d fled her abusive husband but had nowhere to harbor her pets—a fear Hartline later learned prevents many battered women from leaving their spouses. “Her fear and worry broke my heart,” she recalls.

PROTECTING PETS: Over the next few years, Hartline spoke about the problem at community meetings, recruited volunteers and gradually built a network of “foster” families who take in pets of battered women for months at a time. She also houses a few such pets at the Rancho Coastal shelter ( Hartline’s efforts have helped more than 300 women and served as a model for dozens of similar programs across the country. “This service is invaluable,” says Caity Riddle, director of the city’s Community Resource Center.

A NEW CALLING: Hartline, who had worked as an eating-disorders specialist before she started volunteering, finds her greatest satisfaction in helping women like Yvonne—who found foster families for her dog and cat through Hartline when she left her abusive husband in 2005. “Christine was a godsend,” says Yvonne, 32. Last year Hartline switched careers to become a full-time director of the Animal Safehouse Program. “When I started, I thought I’d take care of animals,” she says. “I had no idea this other world would be opened to me.”

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