When you hear stories about domestic violence, you understandably likely think about the victims, not the pets that may be involved.
“Pets are often an afterthought or left out of conversations about the issue entirely,” said Nathaniel Fields, president and CEO of Urban Resource Institute and the Center Against Domestic Violence. “The truth of the matter is that pets play a critical role in domestic violence situations — abusers often threaten, harm or kill their victims’ pets as a method of exerting control, and a substantial percentage of individuals stay in abusive environments to avoid having to leave a beloved pet behind.”
To change that narrative, URI is teaming up with Purina Wednesday for a panel discussion at WNYC Greene Space on the relationship between pets and domestic violence as well as ways the city “can create an ecosystem of services that protect families, individuals and pets experiencing abuse through human-pet co-living,” Fields said. “Purina and URI share a belief that pets and people are better together, and that by providing survivors with the option of bringing their pets into domestic violence shelters, the environment becomes even more conducive to mutual healing.”
“We know that pets can provide us with a host of emotional and physical benefits, from reducing blood pressure, decreasing cholesterol, reducing triglycerides and decreasing stress, to name a few,” added Dr. Kurt Venator, Purina’s chief veterinary officer. “These benefits are crucially important as an individual or family is escaping from domestic violence and looking to heal in a safe and nurturing environment with their pet.”
Sadly, just 3 percent of shelters across the nation accommodate pets, something URI has been trying to change for the past five years with its People and Animals Living Safely program. PALS has sheltered more than 100 pets in four facilities with others on the horizon.
URI will share its PALs experiences and best practices at the panel, which Fields hopes starts a local and national conversation, especially as URI and Purina are creating a resource-based tool kit for other organizations interested in making shelters pet-inclusive.
“Our hope is that one day, no individual will ever be forced to leave a beloved pet behind in order to escape domestic violence,” Fields said.
On Wednesday, URI and Purina took a step closer to that goal by announcing the forthcoming PALS Place. Set to open this fall in Brooklyn, the seven-story PALS Place will be the first-ever domestic violence shelter of its size that will be specifically designed and outfitted for survivor-pet co-living. It will offer 30 apartments where up to 100 survivors can live — and heal — with their pets.