Urban Resource Institute Launches NYC’s First Initiative to Shelter Domestic Violence Survivors with their Pets

Teams up with Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, experts in ensuring pet safety in crisis situations

Urban Resource Institute (URI) has announced the launch of New York City’s first-ever co-sheltering program to enable domestic violence survivors and their pets to reside together in shelter. The project, called PALS—People and Animals Living Safely—will run as a six-month pilot beginning June 1. URI is partnering with the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals (the Alliance) because of its expertise in ensuring pet safety in crisis situations.

“There has never been a more important time for the domestic violence shelter community to open its doors to pets,” said URI President Nathaniel Fields. “As we witnessed during Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, pets are members of the family and no one should have to make the impossible decision to leave them behind during times of crisis.”

Today, national data show that more than 40% of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations out of fear of what would happen if they left their pets behind. Plus, more than 70% of pet owners who enter shelter report that the abuser has threatened, injured or killed family pets (Source: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). Yet in New York City—the largest provider of domestic violence services in the country with more than 50 shelters—not one shelter currently allows pets in residence, until now.

URI is filling this critical gap by becoming the first organization in New York City—and one of few nationwide—to welcome pets into domestic violence shelters. The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals will be working closely with URI to provide staff training, pet safety education, pet food and supplies, and foster solutions for any pets PALS may be unable to accommodate.

“The Alliance has assisted in hundreds of crisis cases—many involving domestic violence—over the past six years,” said Jane Hoffman, Alliance President. “We are extremely pleased that with our new URI partnership, families in domestic violence situations will be sheltered safely with their pets and away from the abusers, in keeping with our goal to help people and pets remain together during times of crisis.”

During its six-month pilot phase, URI PALS will accept cats and smaller animals such as hamsters, birds and fish into shelter. With the goal of raising $250,000 for program support and expansion, URI plans to launch PALS in its three other domestic violence shelters in New York City and welcome dogs into shelter as well. These funds will enable URI PALS to make the structural and organizational changes—such as soundproofing, building dog runs, and increasing staff training—that dogs and larger animals would require.

To ensure operational success, URI and the Alliance enlisted the help of Allie Phillips, national expert and founder of Sheltering Animals & Families Together (SAF-T)—the first and only global initiative that guides family violence shelters on how to welcome families with pets. “Urban Resource Institute’s PALS program will change the way New York City assists families with pets experiencing violence,” said Phillips. “Lives will be saved due to URI’s recognition that pets are part of the family and can be targeted in situations of family violence.”

Muriel Raggi, a domestic violence survivor who was in shelter four years ago, said she’s thankful to URI and the Alliance for recognizing how important pets are in people’s lives. “I remember lying in bed at night, with so many fears and worries swirling in my head, wishing I could have my dog Jasmine next to me to provide raw affection, comfort and support,” said Raggi. “URI PALS will ensure that other survivors with pets won’t face the heartbreaking choices I did.”

As part of the initiative, URI is launching an education campaign to raise awareness about pets and domestic violence. One of its key messages is to inform the public that New York is one of 25 states that allows people to place their pets on orders of protection.

“We have a community responsibility to keep families in crisis whole,” added Fields. “We hope URI PALS will serve as model for sheltering families with their pets across New York City and nationwide.”

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