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Pets are part of the family, and 65% of American households have a pet. Many people do not think about what happens to the many victims of domestic violence who have pets as part of their families. As many as 48% of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations because they don’t want to leave their pet behind. There are very few domestic violence shelters in the U.S. that allow survivors to co-shelter (live with their pets in a shelter apartment). As a result, many survivors have to face the nearly impossible choice of abandoning their pets or entering a shelter, forcing many survivors to stay in abusive situations and risk their own lives rather than separating from their pets.
To address this issue, Urban Resource Institute (URI), a provider of domestic violence programs and services in New York City, launched the URIPALS (People and Animals Living Safely) program in May 2013. URIPALS is the first program in New York and one of the few nationally that allows domestic violence survivors to co-shelter with their pets.
Our pet-friendly shelters offer a range of services focused on both the owners and their pets and feature private dog parks so that URIPALS residents can play with their pets outside without fear of encountering their abusers. URIPALS has helped families with a wide variety of pets, including cats, dogs, and a range of smaller animals, such as reptiles and fish, escape domestic violence. URI has worked with a number of partners, including Nestle Purina, ASPCA, and The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, to develop and support the URIPALS program.
As part of our efforts to keep our programs current and aligned with the needs of our clients, URI released a study in 2015 on the connection between domestic violence and pet ownership. Featuring data from the first two years of the URIPALS program, we developed a report focused on how abusers harm, threaten, and leverage pets to control their victims; the challenges domestic violence survivors who are also pet owners face when attempting to flee their abusers; and the critical requirements for building and implementing a co-sheltering program such as URIPALS.
From our president and CEO Nathaniel Fields:
“Pets are members of the family, and no one, especially victims of domestic violence, should have to make the impossible decision to leave their pets behind during times of crisis. In working with victims of domestic violence, Urban Resource Institute identified a great need for domestic violence shelters that accept animals. As a result, URI developed URIPALS, the only program in New York City and one of the few nationally that allows victims of domestic violence and their families to co-shelter with their pets. It is our hope that the PALS program will serve as a model for sheltering families with their pets nationwide.”
Our research findings demonstrate the severity of the impact of domestic violence on pets and their owners. Click to expand the above infographic illustrating the problem and watch the video below about our partnership with Purina which aims to solve it.
*represents FY16 only
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