As many as 48 percent of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations because they don’t want to leave their pet behind.* (* Frank Ascione, Ph.D. , Utah State University, 1997, 1998). They fear that the abuser might harm the animal if there’s no one there to protect it—a fear that, sadly, is well-founded, as pets are easy targets for abuse.
Pets are part of the family. Boarding or pet foster programs often aren’t an option, and owners are reluctant to separate from their beloved animals. For children who have witnessed or experienced abuse and have been forced to leave their home and personal belongings, losing contact with a cherished pet is yet another source of trauma.
URI’s programs are about supporting individuals and families and protecting the whole family from abuse—and we knew a solution was needed. That’s why we’ve launched URIPALS—People and Animals Living Safely, which is now on-site at URI’s Urban Women’s Safe Haven and Urban Women’s Retreat shelters, In partnership with The Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals, the ASPCA and Purina, URIPALS is the first co-sheltering program in NYC, and one of few offered nationwide, that is equipped to house families and pets together, preserving the welfare and safety of all, preserving the welfare and safety of all. In order for this program to be a success we knew we needed to provide supportive services to the pets entering the program, in addition to their family members. As a result, we forged partnerships with the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals and the ASPCA. They provide essential start up supplies for the pets of families entering the URIPALS program, as well as, vital health services for pets including wellness exams, vaccinations and spays/neuters.
The program began as a pilot project at our largest shelter, Safe Haven, and accommodated only families with small animals such as cats, rabbits, birds, and fish. We have since opened our doors to accept dogs, weighing less than 45 pounds. Our expansion efforts did not stop there, in May of 2015 our second shelter, the Retreat, began accepting families with pets and we have our sights set on replicating this program in all of our shelters as necessary resources to do so become available. URI is seeking funding and support to equip all our shelters with the ability to accept dogs and expand our programming and outreach efforts. Your support will help us protect people and pets from abuse.
URI is also proud to team up with Purina in support of URIPALS (URI People and Animals Living Safely). United by the belief that people and pets are better together, URI and Purina hope to raise awareness about the impact of abuse on the entire family—including pets—and reduce barriers to escape and recovery.
Thanks to Purina’s generous donation we have been able to construct two dog parks at both the Safe Haven and Retreat shelters. In addition, Purina has provided welcome kits and educational materials to URIPALS domestic violence survivors that equip them with resources to help them recover safely with their pets in the shelter.
URI People and Animals Living Safely (URIPALS) Awareness Tips
Some victims of domestic violence endure not just one instance of abuse, but live for months or years in suffering. Many only seek help or escape when an abusive environment becomes unbearable, which can happen at any given moment. However, in crisis, it is often too late to take all of the steps necessary for ensuring safety. Protect yourself and your entire family—including any children and pets—by planning ahead with these safety tips.
Develop a safety plan for the entire family, including your children and pet(s).
- Talk to your kids: Tell children that if the family experiences violence, their job is to keep themselves safe first. Teach children who to call and where to go for help, and identify in advance possible friends or family members who can help care for your pet(s).
- Get an order of protection, making sure to include children and pets, and keep proof of pet ownership with registration records, vet records, a microchip, and/or a current photo. Give a copy of any important legal or identification documents to a trusted friend or family member.
- Set aside as much emergency money (preferably cash) as possible.
- Pack an emergency bag and keep it hidden, but easily accessible. Make sure to include necessities for you and your children, as well as food, supplies, and records for your pet(s).
- Use an alternate cell phone such as a prepaid phone, that the abuser doesn’t know about and keep it in a safe place. Try not to use a shared or family cell phone.
- Use a safe computer. If sharing a computer with the abuser, consider going to a local library for free computer and internet use.
- Change passwords and pin numbers for bank, phone, email and other important accounts.
- Turn off location-based social media posts and avoid disclosing your location on Facebook and Twitter in order to make it more difficult for the abuser to monitor and track you.
- Give an extra set of house keys and car keys to a friend or family member that you can trust.
- Get out: If an argument erupts and you fear for your safety, don’t stay and argue/fight with the abuser. Leave immediately.
Domestic violence may happen at home behind closed doors, but signs of abuse are often apparent to family, friends, and members of victims’ communities. Don’t ignore the signs—get help. Whether you are being abused, or are a witness to abuse, please call our Domestic Violence Hotline: 888-279-2211 or 888-252-2890.
Impact of Domestic Violence on Pets and Their Owners.
Leveraging data from the URIPALS white paper, we developed an infographic showcasing important information about the connection between domestic violence and pet ownership. The infographic contains statistics and graphics that highlight the key findings of the report. Please feel free to share it on social media using #URIPALS.