New York City gets first shelter accepting domestic violence survivors and pets

Domestic violence survivors and their pets are finding safe refuge together in New York City after the area's first co-sheltering project launched on June 1.

People and Animals Living Safely (PALS), run by the Urban Resource Institute (URI) in a partnership with the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals, kicked off a six-month pilot program that will first accept cats and other small animals only.

According to a news release from URI, the organization will attempt to raise $250,000 so it can expand PALS into three other domestic violence shelters in New York City and also begin to welcome dogs and other larger animals into the shelters. Larger animals require additional changes such as soundproofing, dog runs, and extra staff training, which will be paid for with the money raised.

The co-sheltering initiative is geared toward helping the more than 40 percent of domestic violence victims who stay in abusive situations rather than leave their pets behind, URI said, citing national data. The organization also said that more than 70 percent of pet owners who enter shelters report that the abuser has threatened, injured, or killed family pets.

According to URI, this will be the first shelter in New York City to allow pets in residence, although New York City is the largest provider of domestic violence services in the United States with more than 50 shelters.

With the pilot program just beginning, URI President Nathan Fields said he believes it is a big step toward helping domestic violence victims make safer decisions for themselves and their pets.

"There has never been a more important time for the domestic violence shelter community to open its doors to pets," Fields said. "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."