Foster Care Helps Keep a Family Together

Friday, July 11, 2014 - 3:00pm
Young woman sitting on blanket with chihuahua

Peppah and her foster mom, Jamie (right)

When a 34-year-old woman made the difficult decision to flee from domestic violence in her home, she ran into an immediate roadblock: her Chihuahua, Peppah. Though recent studies show that 70 percent of domestic violence perpetrators also threatened, injured, or killed their pets, this woman couldn’t find a single shelter in New York City that was willing to take both her and Peppah in. Desperate, she turned to the Mayor’s Alliance of New York City, who agreed to foster the dog temporarily while she looked for a solution. That solution finally came in the form of Urban Resources Institute (URI).

URI is a non-profit agency that provides safe shelter not only for domestic violence survivors, but for their pets as well. Their PALS Program (People and Animals Living Safely) marks the creation of New York City’s first and only domestic violence shelter that allows pets—and with studies showing that nearly half of domestic violence victims delayed fleeing out of fear for their animals, this resource could not have come at a more crucial time.

“Lack of pet-friendly sheltering options places animals and people at risk of continued violence and harm,” says Allison Cardona, Senior Director of Cruelty Intervention Advocacy at the ASPCA. “The PALS program is a life-saving initiative that keeps families together and should inspire other providers to follow suit.”

Once in the URI shelter, the woman and her children were reunited with Peppah.”The kids—when finally we got here, they didn’t even want to go to school that day,” she said. “They just wanted to stay home and be with her.”

In February, the ASPCA announced a $75,000 grant in support of URI PALS. In addition to financial support, our partnership with the program also includes an array of services ranging from veterinary care to foster assistance. So when the time came for the woman and her family to leave URI and transition into more permanent housing, the ASPCA’s own Jamie Scotto stepped in.

A Senior Manager in our Shelter Research and Development department, Jamie brought Peppah into her home as a foster so that the woman could work on getting into long-term housing.  “I wanted to give her the opportunity to focus on the rest of her life,” says Jamie. “I saw first-hand that just a few weeks of foster care can mean the difference between an animal being surrendered and that animal staying with their family.”

In addition to our work with URI, the ASPCA is on the ground in several states around the country spearheading legal efforts to include pets in orders of protection. We are committed to keeping domestic violence survivors and their pets together, and though Jamie and Peppah have grown close, we cannot wait for the day when this sweet dog and her family are reunited in a safe, permanent home.

Black and white chihuahua sitting on yellow blanket