Citywide organization helps domestic violence survivors and their pets
A unique citywide program is breaking through the silence to convince those suffering from domestic violence to seek help.
Experts say many victims do not seek help because often something holds them back, including worries about what will become of pets.
The URIPALS program, or Urban Resource Institute's People and Animals Living Safely is the only co-sheltering program in New York City. It is also one of few nationwide where someone fleeing domestic violence can take their pets with them.
"About 48 percent of survivors will delay leaving a potentially dangerous situation and violent relationship because they have no place to bring their pets with them," says Abbie Tuller, senior director of DV Special Programs. "You should never be forced to choose between your pet and your safety, and a lot of women stay because of pets."
The URIPALS program started in 2013 and is partnered with the ASPCA, the Mayor's Alliance for New York City Animals and Purina, to give support to children, mothers and pets. URIPALS has six domestic violence shelters throughout the five boroughs.
The program is on-site at three of those locations and has served 63 families and 87 pets so far. The program serves mostly dogs and cats, but can help other types of pets as well.
Purina sponsors a dog park on one of the sites that serves as a haven for owners and their pets.
"The pet havens have really allowed us to have space for our PALS' families to play with their animals in a safe and secure environment," says Tuller.
Many say their pets help calm them during difficult times, especially for survivors of domestic violence.
"We want other providers to model the same behavior. We want to open the doors wide, reduce all of those obstacles, so we're partnering with Purina on a national level to really talk about how to get this particular model of co-sheltering not just in New York City, not just in New York state, but nationally," says Nathaniel Fields, CEO of URIPALS.
The Pet and Women's Safety Act has been introduced in the house and URIPALS's president says he hopes it will pass in 2017. If passed, it will prohibit threats or any act of violence against a person's pet and will provide more resources for survivors and their pets.
Last year, the Bronx had the most intimate partner homicides in the city, with 10 people killed.