New initiative shelters victims of domestic violence with their pets

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This cat has been living at URI’s largest emergency shelter with its owner for the past several months as part of the URIPALS program. (Credit: Jordan H. Star)

Survivors of domestic violence in New York City now have a refuge that also welcomes their pets.

The program, URIPALS, is the result of a joint effort by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Urban Resource Institute. URI first launched the program in June 2013 and the ASPCA announced on Thursday it would support the program with a $75,000 grant. The money will fund the hiring of a coordinator who will provide services to people and animals sheltering in URI’s largest facility.

Since the pilot’s launch, more than a dozen cats and other small pets have been housed at the shelter, where apartments have been modified to accommodate them. The program is expanding to accept dogs.

“There are so many layers in domestic violence situations, and every member of the family is affected — including pets, who are often targeted as a way to threaten or control victims — which is why we are so grateful for the ASPCA’s partnership in helping people and pets escape violence together,” URI President Nathaniel Fields said in a statement.

Stacy Wolf, the Senior Vice President of ASPCA’s Anti Cruelty Group, said the program was a needed lifeline for some people who might be reluctant to leave their abusive situations if it meant leaving their pets behind.

“The notion of having to make that choice is not even conceivable to me,” Wolf said. “Making those hard choices in such difficult circumstances is not something anyone should ever have to face.”

The ASPCA will also make its Animal Hospital available to URIPALS as a resource.

Individuals who need help or are a witness to abuse are urged to call URI’s Domestic Violence Hotline at 888-279-2211or 888-252-2890 or visit

Follow Emily Johnson on Twitter @emilyjreports


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