Domestic violence shelter offers safe haven for pets

A Great Dane who protected his owner from being beaten to death with a hammer by her boyfriend has inspired a family violence agency to be the second in the country to offer a pet shelter for furry victims of domestic violence.

In June, the Paws Place pet shelter in Kansas City, Mo. began providing protection to pets of families living at the Rose Brooks Center’s emergency shelter. The new pet shelter can provide safety for up to eight family pets each night, according to information from Rose Brooks.

"Rose Brooks believes in family," said Susan Miller, Rose Brooks Center CEO. "Our work every day is to keep families safe and help them rebuild their lives. And pets are part of that family too. Weve simply redefined what family means to us."

The Paws Place pet shelter was inspired by a woman and her Great Dane, "Hank", who suffered two broken ribs and a fractured hip when he protected the woman from domestic abuse. The dog crawled onto the woman’s back to protect her from being beaten to death with a hammer by her boyfriend. The boyfriend then turned on Hank, dragging the seriously injured dog into a busy street and leaving him there.

The woman escaped from her attacker, who was threatening to shoot both her and Hank.

According to figures from the American Humane Association and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 71 percent of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control their victims.

Numbers show that between 25 and 40 percent of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets or livestock should they leave. Thirteen percent of intentional animal abuse cases involve domestic violence.

The American Humane Association says women have been known to live in their cars for months with their pets until an opening became available at a pet-friendly safe house.

Because of the woman’s dangerous situation, Rose Brooks Center made an exception to their "no animal policy" and allowed Hank to stay at the center.

"They didnt have to take us," the woman said in a press release from the shelter. "They could have said, Im sorry, we simply dont allow pets. But Rose Brooks Centers commitment to keeping families safe was more powerful than any rule. And I thank God every day for that."

The shelter is presented in partnership with Bayer Animal Health.