There’s a new safe haven for two- and four-legged abuse victims in town.
The nation’s largest domestic-abuse shelter built to accommodate humans and their pets debuted in Kings County on Tuesday, sparing women and families the grief of having to choose between a roof over their head, or keeping a beloved companion at their side, according to an abuse victim.
“When you’re fleeing domestic violence, there are all these stigmas that go along with it, but to know this is designed with pets in mind, for a person specifically like you, it automatically relaxes you a bit,” said Hope, who fled a hostile household with her two kids and dog Coco in 2016.
The seven-story Pals Place shelter — the location of which this newspaper withheld for the safety of its residents — is operated by social-services provider the Urban Resource Institute.
It features ground-floor security, a 30-plus-person staff, and a total of 30 fully furnished, one- and two-bedroom units for individuals and families, all of which come stocked with pet-care essentials including kennels, toys, water bowls, collars, leashes, litter, and food, as well as a backyard dog run and an on-site grooming space, according to Hope.
“Everything is shaped around pets,” she said.
More than 70 percent of domestic-abuse victims claim their furry friends were threatened, beaten, or killed by their abuser, but only 3 percent of shelters allow pets, and many women chose to stay in abusive relationships rather than abandon their animal companions, according to an Urban Resource Institute rep.
Hope, for instance, parted ways with Coco when she fled her abusive relationship — a decision she described as one of the most gut-wrenching moments of the entire ordeal.
“Having to leave her, not knowing when or how we were going to reunite, it just broke me down,” she said. “It was one of the first times I cried throughout the whole experience.”
Hope eventually found Urban Resource Institute via a referral, and the provider brought her, Coco, and her kids to one of its other shelters that allowed some animals but wasn’t built with four-legged residents in mind, forcing the facility to enforce restrictions on where Coco could roam — regulations that do not exist in the new refuge, she said.
“Here there’s a freedom and acceptance, so Coco can be free,” said Hope.
And in addition to the pet-oriented amenities, the Pals shelter will provide other services and programming to its human and animal occupants, the first of which are expected to arrive later this year. Residents, who can stay at the emergency refuge for up to 180 days, can participate in such events as communal barbecues and trips to local animal rescues, where they can consult with experts in animal care and therapy.
Anyone looking to leave an abusive household should text the Domestic Abuse Hotline at (800) 621–HOPE to be connected to a trained counselor, who can refer them to service providers, including Urban Resource Institute.