According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people in the United States are abused by an intimate partner every minute, which amounts to more than 10 million women and men (equal to about half the population of New York) in one year[i]. Here in New York State, nearly 85,000 people were victimized by an intimate partner in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available [ii]. In 2019, domestic homicides accounted for nearly a quarter of all homicides in New York State.[iii]
Leaving an abusive situation is not easy. Survivors of domestic violence have identified many barriers to leaving, including fear of elevated violence (the most dangerous time is after the survivor leaves), isolation from family and friends, impact on children, economic obstacles and lack of resources, immigration issues and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals in relationships by law enforcement and support services.[iv]
In addition to these barriers, 37% of survivors with pets say their abusers threatened, hurt or killed their pets as leverage to prevent them from leaving or to force them to return, and 29% reported the pet was harmed or killed. 50% of survivors report that they could not leave an abusive situation if they could not take their pet with them.[v]
Pets are part of the family, and for many survivors of domestic violence and their families, the human-animal bond provides an important source of comfort and companionship and is proven to aid in healing from the trauma they have endured.[vi]
PALS: A Decade of People and Animals Living Safely
The pioneering People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) program was born in 2013 when Urban Resource Institute (URI) piloted the first pet-inclusive shelter in New York City where survivors and their pets could stay together and heal together. Since then, URI expanded its PALS program to include 9 shelters and 304 apartment style units across four boroughs. In 2023, the 10th Anniversary year, the PALS program has provided services to nearly and has provided safe shelter for families for a total of more than 211,000 nights.[vii]
URI’s PALS program accommodates companion animals of all species, from cats and dogs to birds and lizards. Through valued partnerships, URI is able to provide pets with free food, supplies and access to veterinary care, behavioral support and more.
Today, URI remains the only provider of temporary housing services in New York City that allows people and pets to stay and heal together. URI aims to change that. This “Pawprint” is a start, designed to lay a foundation for additional service providers and expanded PALS programming at URI and across the State to accommodate people and pets and to remove an often obstacle in a survivor’s pathway to safety and healing.
Nearly every day, the New York City Hotline receives calls from survivors with pets who cannot be accommodated in shelter because they do not want to be separated from their pets or leave their animals behind.[viii]
As part of URI’s commitment to remove barriers to safety and healing for survivors of domestic violence, URI aims to provide comprehensive training and technical assistance to temporary housing providers that are interested in implementing a PALS program of their own.
In the last ten years, URI has learned so much about the profound impact that the human-animal bond can have on healing. We know that with a little support, every shelter in the state could be fully pet inclusive, and survivors with pets will not be faced with the agonizing choice of staying in a dangerous situation or leaving their furry family member behind.
Below are URI’s recommendations to our partners in government. We look forward to your partnership.
Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act – URI Supports
Status – sponsors
Originally authorized as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, the PAWS Act directs $3 million in new grant funding, via the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), to programs that provide shelter and housing assistance to domestic violence survivors with companion animals.
The Farm Bill is reauthorized every five years; the US Congress must reauthorize the Farm Bill in 2023.
In addition to funding the grant program, the PAWS Act encourages state-issued orders of protection to include companion animals and expands the definition of stalking
URI supports the authorization of the Farm Bill, along with $3 million for the PAWS Act.
Providing for Unhoused People with Pets (PUPP) Act – URI Supports
Status: H.R. 8074 117th Congress (2021-2022) Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO-6)
Subject to available appropriations, the PUPP Act authorizes the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to make grants to programs that provide temporary and permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness with pets.
Like the PAWS Act, the PUPP Act would help encourage development of temporary housing for people with pets who are experiencing homelessness. There are currently no shelters for unhoused people in New York that accept companion animals who are also not designated emotional support animals.
URI supports the PUPP Act and advocates for its inclusion in the FARM Act, along with $3 million in appropriations.
Continuing Education Credits for Veterinarians Providing Free Care to Companion Animals in Temporary Shelter – URI Supports
Status: Pending Introduction by Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris & Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal
Pursuant to section 6704-a and 6711-b of New York State Education Law, veterinarians are required to complete 45 hours of continuing education (CE) every three years.[i] Veterinarians are currently permitted (but not required) to satisfy a portion of this requirement by providing free spay and neuter procedures. URI proposes that this requirement be extended to include free veterinary care to animals in temporary shelter for survivors of domestic violence and people experiencing homelessness.
The cost of providing veterinary care to animals in shelter is a major obstacle in the expansion of PALS programming to other agencies, as many providers cannot afford the additional cost. Encouraging licensed veterinarians to satisfy a portion of their triannual CE credits by providing free veterinary care to animals in shelter would help to eliminate that barrier and encourage more temporary housing providers to allow people and animals to co-live in their shelters.
URI supports allowing veterinarians to satisfy a portion of their continuing education requirement by providing free veterinary care to animals in temporary shelter.
PALS Operational and Capital Construction Fund – URI Supports
Status: not yet introduced
As URI’s PALS program has grown over the years, we have been very intentional about constructing new, purpose-built shelters specifically designed to accommodate people along with their pets. n is one of our sites which has an animal washing and grooming room; our Brighter Days facility, Harmony House, and several others have an outdoor pet park enabling survivors and their pets to enjoy the outdoors and get exercise while remaining in the safety of our shelter. We provide each client who presents with an animal access to veterinary care, animal behaviorists and training, enrichment opportunities and the necessary, species-appropriate sup
While URI is grateful for the support it has received from private and nonprofit partners, one of the obstacles providers have cited in expanding PALS is the costs associated with implementation. Creating a dedicated state funding stream will support providers as they work to remove a significant barrier for survivors seeking safety and shelter from abuse in a temporary shelter.
URI supports the implementation of a PALS Operational and Capital Construction Fund.
Orders of Protection for Companion Animals – URI Supports
A.39 (L. Rosenthal) / S.5309 (Weik)
New York currently allows individuals to include companion animals in orders of protection. McKinney’s Family Court Act § 842 specifically allows a court to order the respondent to refrain from intentionally injuring or killing, without justification, any companion animal the respondent knows to be owned, possessed, leased, kept or held by the petitioner or a minor child residing in the household.
Bill A.39/S.5390 would expand on this vital protection by granting custody of the subject animal to the party petitioning for the order of protection to ensure that the animal cannot be harmed by the respondent or alleged abuser.
Abusers often use threats of harm or actual violence against animals to exert control over victims of domestic violence. Nearly 50% of survivors with pets have indicated that they are worried that their abuser would harm or kill their pet and one third of respondents reported that their abuser had harmed or killed a pet or threatened to do so. As a result, many survivors report that they would struggle to leave a dangerous situation if they are forced to leave their pet behind.
URI supports A.39/S.5309.
Companion Animals Permitted in Shelters for Families Experiencing Homelessness – URI Supports
Status: Not yet introduced
In 2012, New York City took dramatic action to reduce barriers to shelter by improving accommodations for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness with pets.
Local law 96 and 97 of 2021 now require New York City to create a comprehensive plan to make the shelter system more pet-accessible and mandates reporting on instances when a person gives up their pet entering shelter and provide tracking for continuity.
Currently, people who are homeless and living with pets cannot bring their pets into shelter unless those animals are emotional support or service animals. We know that this creates a significant barrier for individuals and families with pets who are experiencing homelessness. Faced with the decision to enter shelter and leave their pet behind, many opt to keep their pets and search for alternative accommodations, which can often result in street homelessness.
In addition, many survivors of domestic violence enter the DHS system after they have reached the maximum number of allowable days in domestic violence shelter. URI’s PALS program has empowered some of these survivors to co-shelter with their pets in one of our 10 pet-friendly shelters for domestic violence survivors. These survivors should not be forced to leave their pets behind as a condition of entry to the DHS system.
People and families experiencing street homelessness cite their inability to bring their pets with them to shelter as among the top reasons that they remain unhoused and living in dangerous outdoor or makeshift conditions.
URI supports the introduction of legislation to remove a significant barrier to people seeking shelter. The city should allow all providers of temporary housing to accept companion animals.
PALS Training and Technical Assistance Program – URI Supports
Status: Not yet introduced
Local laws 96 and 97 of 2021 required the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to create a comprehensive plan to make the shelter system more pet accessible. The plan, which was released in July 2022, outlined a series of recommendations that should be considered before shelters for individuals and families experiencing homelessness begin accepting companion animals.[xii]
In the ten years since URI piloted its first PALS program, we have developed and implemented comprehensive policies and procedures that guide our work and ensure scalability, operational success and overall safety. These policies and procedures address the recommendations outlined in the DHS report. Our best practices include a comprehensive temperament assessment at intake, standards for basic veterinary care and behavioral support, the provision of species-specific supplies and support, along with comprehensive sanitation and safety standards to ensure that families with pets can safely and easily coexist with families without pets.
URI supports the introduction of this legislation. Now that the City of New York has outlined their vital considerations, it should partner with providers and experts in related fields to develop basic minimum operational, safety and sanitation standards to help guide citywide PALS program implementation.
For more information about any of URI’s programs or the recommendations above, please contact URI’S Government Affairs Team at firstname.lastname@example.org