Thursday, March 20, 2014

Domestic Violence and Pets

Photo: URI

For years now it has been no secret that domestic violence victims stay with their abusive spouses because of the spouse's threat of violence against the family pet. Studies show that nearly 48% of victims of domestic violence stay because of this threat. It has not been a threat a victim was about to take lightly, having been the object of that person's abuse. How likely is it that the spouse would actually kill the dog or cat? I'd say the chances are pretty good. At the very least there would be a serious injury.  This threat has hung over far too many women and their pets as well as their children. The abusive spouse also tends to blame the victim for the abuse. 

There should be shelters where the family can bring the pet. It wouldn't be much of a leap for the abuser to go from abusing the pet to abusing the children. Such a shelter would make the family feel safe and certainly more intact with the pet very much welcome. And something new has been added.

This week in New York City the very first dog park in a domestic abuse shelter was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Hosted by Urban Resources Institute (URI) and Nestle Purina. Nestle Purina's generous support made it possible for URI to expand their URIPALS - People and Animals Living Safely.  It is New York's only shelter to allow families fleeing abuse to bring their pets with them. The program launched in 2013 as a pilot program. Originally, it allowed families to bring their cats and other small animals but with the opening of the Purina Play Haven and Dog Park, families can now bring dogs with them.

Sponsored by Purina, the company contributed funds for the design and construction of the dog park. It was so carefully thought out that overhead trellises allow for the privacy and security of the shelter residents. Purina is justifiably proud of their support of this worthy endeavor.  "At Purina we share the belief that when pets and people are together, life is truly better," said Lindsey Hogan, Brand Manager for the Purina Brand.

Photo: Jordan H. Star

The collaboration between URI and Purina will surely bring positive results.

"When my children and I found out that we could bring our dog, Sparky, with us into shelter we were overjoyed," said one domestic violence survivor who is currently in URI's shelter.  "Sparky has always been there with us to comfort and even protect us from the abuse, and having him there with us as we work to put our lives back together makes our recovery process so much better.  I'm so grateful to Purina and URI for helping me and other families with pets stay together."

Since launching URIPALS, we've seen how transformative it is for families in domestic violence situations to go through the healing process together with their pets," said Nathaniel Fields, President of URI.  "As we open our doors to families with dogs and celebrate this critical milestone for URIPALS, we hope to continue the momentum and inspire other organizations in major cities nationwide that this initiative is possible.  We are grateful to Purina for helping URI make this dog park a reality, and for their shared commitment to keeping people and pets together, especially in times of crisis."

This should certainly be an eye-opener for major cities across the country. 

Photo: Jordan H. Star

"I applaud URI, Purina and GEPPAUL ARCHITECTS for their unique and innovative collaboration to create the City's first-ever dog park in a domestic violence shelter and for appreciating that a pet is more than just an animal in your home," said Commissioner Rose Pierre-Louis of the Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence.

Cecile Noel, Deputy Commissioner of HRA's Office of Emergency and Intervention Services said, "As providers of emergency shelter and other vital services to victims of abuse and their children we know quite well that those who fear for their own safety are often worried about leaving their pet family member to escape abuse, unless there's an opportunity to preserve the pet's welfare. With initiatives like this we are establishing effective models for domestic violence and animal protection programs not only in New York City but across the State and Nation."

As part of its sponsorship of URIPALS, in 2013 Purina also donated much-needed welcome kits tailored for cats that included food, toys, crates and other pet supplies as well as educational materials designed to guide families entering URI's largest domestic violence shelter in best practices for caring  for their pets.

Photo: Jordan H. Star

If you would like more information about URIPALS and tips for keeping the entire family together in domestic violence situations, please visit:


rescuegal said...

Great blog about a most needed facility. Kudos to Purina. Every city needs one of these.

Pamela S. said...

What a fantastic idea to 'bridge the gap' of people to stay with there pets at a domestic violence shelter. More shelters such as the one mentioned in the article need to be studied and opened to the public seeking to improve domestic violence situations. I applaud the concept and would like to help with expanding the idea to other states as well. Congratulations on an outstanding project!

Darlene said...

Thank you so much for your positive response, Pamela.