Domestic violence shelter welcomes pets in Brooklyn

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A new domestic violence shelter in Brooklyn is helping victims escape their abusers by welcoming pets.

"Pets are part of the family," said Jennifer White-Reid of the Urban Resources Institute. "You look at the images of families in Katrina and other emergencies and they're clinging onto their loved ones, including their beloved pets."

So it shouldn't come as a shock that almost half of all victims of domestic violence don't leave their abuser if it means leaving a pet behind. In many cases victims are worried that their animals will become the target of abuse if they're left alone.

"We had a survivor who talked about her cat placed in a microwave, and her being threatened that if she didn't do what her abuser told her to do, he would then turn the microwave on," White-Reid said.

The problem is only 3 percent of domestic-violence shelters across the country allow families to bring pets.

"We've had families who left and lived in their cars because they couldn't come into shelter with their pet," said White-Reid.

That's why the Urban Resource Institute started the program, called People and Animals Living Safely or PALS.

The program launched in 2013, with the institute retrofitting shelters to accommodate pets. This week, the organization opened PALS Place, a 100-person-capacity building with room for 41 families and their pets.

"PALS Place is a ground-breaking initiative because from concept to development, we really thought about the family with their pet in mind," said White-Reid.

From the grooming station and on-site dog park, to welcome kits provided by Purina and free vet care from the ASPCA,
victims who find the courage to leave their situation will have peace of mind knowing their entire family will be protected.

"Having one shelter that's 100-percent pet friendly is a great opportunity, but we want to see a replication of this model over time throughout the country."

URI will start placing families at PALS Place by the end of the year. For more information you can head to http://www.urinyc.org.

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