A first-of-its-kind shelter for domestic abuse victims and their pets is coming to New York City.
A coalition of nonprofits has partnered to bring the unique emergency housing to a sensitive population, abuse victims scared to leave abusive relationships for fear of losing their pets.
"There has never been a more important time for the domestic violence shelter community to open its doors to pets," said Nathaniel Fields, president of the nonprofit group Urban Resource Institute, which sponsors the shelter. "As we witnessed during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane 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.''
URI has created 10 pet-friendly apartments in a Brooklyn shelter for domestic abusive victims. The 6-month pilot program, dubbed People and Animals Living Safely, or PALS, begins Saturday.
The group hopes to raise $250,000 for program support and expand PALS to three other domestic violence shelters in the city.
URI, which partnered with the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals, says the apartments will include specialized cat-friendly screens over the windows as well as crates to comfortably house pets. Organizers say they'll start to accept cats and smaller animals such as hamsters, birds and fish into the shelter. The apartments will eventually be soundproofed when dogs are accepted in September.
Experts say that about 40 percent of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations out of fear of what might happen to their pets if they're left behind. They also say more than 70 percent of pet owners who enter shelters report their abuser has threatened, injured or killed family pets.
New York joins 24 other states with a similar system for domestic abuse victims.