Families escaping domestic abuse are facing the crises of their lives, and while victims often want to bring their pets, shelters don’t always accept them. That’s why New York City‘s unique PAL’s Place opened this year, as a sanctuary for families with pets to rebuild their lives in safety.
The first of its kind and part of a growing movement, PAL’s Place is the culmination of five years’ of work by the Urban Resource Institute to help families and pets shelter together.
The facility features 30 apartments, all pet-friendly, with tall bookcases for cats to perch on and thoughtful floor coverings with good traction. A securely fenced dog play area and parklike landscaping help dogs and their people feel at home. The non-profit also provides some pet-friendly apartments in other buildings, but PAL’s Place is the first 100% pet-friendly property.
The statistics on domestic violence and how it affects pets and their families are heartbreaking. According to the National Coalition on Domestic Violence (read the fact sheet here), over 70% of abusers threatened, hurt, or killed family pets, specifically with the intention of controlling, punishing, or frightening partners and their children. And most of that abuse happens in front of the children. Animal abusers are also twice as likely to abuse children and are more likely to have a history of violent crime, including prior animal abuse.
The harsh reality of trying to find a haven for yourself, your children, and your pets means that 19% of women delay leaving an abusive situation due to lack of care resources. For women without children, that number jumps to 33%. For women in abusive situations, pets are often a primary source of emotional support and affection.
Right now less than 3% of domestic violence shelters can allow pets to stay with their families on site. Alternatives exist, such as emergency foster boarding programs through non-profit organizations and shelters, grants to pay for boarding, and shelters with boarding partnerships in place. Some of the best-known resources include:
Safe Place for Pets is an online resource listing organizations by state or ZIP code ready to help families and pets in crisis. Safe Place is provided by Red Rover, a non-profit dedicated to helping animals in need. Red Rover also awards Safe Housing Grants to help cover the cost of short-term boarding of a pet while in crisis.
Safe Havens Mapping Project lists shelters that provide on-site boarding, shelters with a boarding partnership, and organizations that provide foster care for pets during a crisis. The Animal Welfare Institute is a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of animals.
Sheltering Animals and Families Together Project provides a comprehensive listing of shelters that allow pets. SAF-T is a global initiative helping domestic violence shelters to create on-site pet housing for families fleeing violence.
Pets of the Homeless provides access to pet food and vet care to those living without benefit of a roof. When shelters do not provide access to pet boarding, abuse survivors report living in their car an average of four months waiting for a pet-friendly spot to open up. These services can help them get by until services are available. Learn more about Pets of the Homeless in this video.
Hat Tip: Today’s Veterinary Practice