Program helps families with pets fleeing domestic violence

Many people living with abusive partners often refuse to leave because they don’t want to abandon their pets. Thankfully, a number of families will be able to start new lives thanks to the Urban Resource Institute (URI), a nonprofit human services organization that works with victims of domestic violence.

Less than a year ago, the URI began allowing dogs in a number of its apartments that are designed for domestic violence survivors. To date, URI has helped families with 26 cats, 13 dogs, and three turtles. The housing units are part of the organization’s People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) program.

Nathaniel Fields, president and chief executive officer of URI tells The Huffington Post that five more apartments have just been approved by the New York State Office of Children & Family Services.

The apartments are all retrofitted with sound-proof materials. The grounds around the apartment building also contain a dog park. In addition to residents receiving therapy, the dogs in the apartments, who may be traumatized by past abuse, also receive therapy.

Fields said, “There has never been a more important time for the domestic violence shelter community to open its doors to pets. As we witnessed during Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy, pets are members of the family and no one should have to make the impossible decision to leave them behind during times of crisis.”

The program received a grant in the amount of $75,000 from the ASPCA.

According to the ASPCA’s website, “national studies estimate that 70 percent of pet-owning women entering domestic violence shelters report that their abuser has threatened, harmed or killed a family pet. Victims may delay leaving an abusive situation because of a lack of pet-friendly shelter or housing options, putting the entire family — people and pets — at risk.”

In addition to New York City, other states have laws protecting people and pets from domestic violence. The need, however, continues to be great. Workers at the Urban Resource Institute are open to sharing ideas on how to pass similar laws and programs in other states. For more information, contact Urban Resource Institute or call 1-800-621-4673.

Sources: The Huffington Post