We’ve seen the bumper sticker Who Rescued Who? It is the mantra of just about everyone who ever rescued a companion animal only to find that their lives were saved as well.
True as this is for everyday folk who wrestle with questions about life, it is doubly so for victims of domestic violence whose pet may be their only source of unconditional love.
Thousands of pet parents seeking refuge from abusive situations are in a bind. Currently, only about three percent of domestic shelters allow pets. Pet parents are forced to consider three harrowing choices; leave their pet in a foster home, turn them in to an animal shelter or, worst of all, leave their pet in the abusive home. Per statistics by American Humane in association with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 71 percent of victims reported that their pets were either threatened, harmed or killed by their abusers. Another study found that 25-40 percent of victims stay in abusive situations rather than leave their pets behind.
One organization believes that breaking the cycle of physical and psychological abuse should not have to mean breaking the bond between the abused and their best friend. On October 30, the Urban Resource Institute (URI) announced the opening of PALS Place (People and Animals Living Safely), a seven story haven in Brooklyn, New York, where victims of domestic violence can heal together with their animal companions.
PALS Place is the first domestic violence shelter of its size to accommodate families with pets. Thirty one- and two-bedroom units safely house up to 100 survivors. Individuals or families can now embark on a new life without having to sacrifice one of their own.
URI launched the PALS program in 2013 by retrofitting its established shelters with pet-friendly amenities. PALS Place makes the program’s fifth anniversary by taking shelter to an even higher level. Pet-friendly elements include a dedicated grooming room complete with adjustable pet ramp and stainless steel tub and an outdoor “Pet Haven” area with play structures and padded grass. Periodic visits from groomers and veterinarians are available.
Enrichment programs for residents feature monthly education sessions about pet care including how to have safe interactions with animals, quarterly field trips to animal shelters and bi-annual short-term group sessions promoting human and animal healing. Residents have access to information about available resources for pet families in New York City and introductions to the animal welfare profession. Special guests include therapy animal teams, professional dog trainers and other animal care workers.
The more than 30 administrative, clinical and operational staff at PALS Place will have special training to help families with pets through their transition to independent living. Staff are educated about animal body language, coordinate free medical care courtesy of the ASPCA and identify pet-friendly housing options for life after shelter.
URI’s PALS program spans six facilities located throughout New York City. Dogs, cats, turtles, birds, guinea pigs, lizards, and fish have been among the 130 pets welcomed throughout the PALS network.
Sheltering victims of domestic violence along with their beloved pets. That’s rescue to the second power: R2
May that power grow infinitely.