It’s hard enough for survivors of domestic violence to navigate the complicated emotional and logistical terrain of leaving home for safe shelter—and adding pets into the equation makes these situations even more stressful. Some stay in abusive relationships to protect their beloved pets, while others have no choice but to leave them behind. Because animals often are used as pawns in domestic disputes, this heartbreaking choice can lead to tragedy.
New York’s Urban Resource Institute (URI), a non-profit human services organization dedicated to helping New York’s most vulnerable populations, wants to solve this problem—and the ASPCA is stepping up to help.
We’re awarding a $75,000 grant to URI’s innovative PALS (People and Animals Living Safely) program, which enables clients at URI’s largest domestic violence shelter to bring pets with them. Since its launch in June 2013, the program has welcomed many cats; it began accepting dogs this month. This is New York City’s first-ever initiative to house survivors of domestic violence with their pets in a shelter setting.
“We’re honored to participate in an innovative program that provides safe shelter for both domestic violence victims and their pets,” says ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker. “This program keeps people and pets together during times of crisis, protects them both, and preserves the special bond with a companion animal—often a major source of comfort and stability. We’d love to see it expand to other emergency shelters throughout the city and nationwide.”
In addition to the grant, the ASPCA will offer assistance via its Animal Hospital by providing services including medical exams, vaccinations, behavioral support, spay/neuter surgery and fostering. The ASPCA’s Cruelty Intervention Advocacy team will also provide support and offer critical resources to pet owners who find themselves and their animals in unstable situations.
Studies estimate that as many as 48% of victims of domestic violence remain in abusive situations for fear of what would happen if they left their pets behind, and that more than 70% of pet-owning women entering domestic violence shelters report that abusers have threatened, harmed or killed a family pet. By working together, ASPCA and URI hope to increase awareness about the impact of abuse on every member of the family—including pets—and encourage increased partnership between animal welfare and domestic violence communities nationwide.
This cat has been living at URI’s largest emergency shelter with its owner for the past several months as part of the URIPALS program.
All photos courtesy of Jordan H. Star.