Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pets can be domestic violence victims too: How you can help Harbor House open a shelter for pets

Imagine this: you live with your significant other, but that person is extremely abusive to them.

You want to be free, but you have a dilemma. You don't have any children -- but you do have a beloved pet that is like your child. And if you leave that pet behind, you don't trust your significant other to do something to your pet in retaliation.

You don't have anyone to turn to, and you call the local domestic violence shelter, but they can't help you because they don't take pets. So what do you do?

This is the reality for many people, both men and women, in abusive relationships across the country.

But in Orlando, a first-of-its-kind facility will soon open for people in this situation.

Harbor House of Florida, which has an emergency shelter for domestic violence victims, will open a shelter in October for their pets.

"There's nothing like it," said Kat Kennedy with Harbor House. "We are so proud with what we’ve been able to do with the community support, that’s the only way this could have happened. It's an industry first."

Kennedy says that only 70 domestic violence shelters nationwide have some kind of provision for victims with pets. But nothing like this.

When finished, the Paws for Peace Kennel will have all the charm of a pet boarding facility. It will include 10 runs for dogs and 10 for cats, plus a place for little pets from rabbits to parakeets.

It will also have a fresh air porch for cats, play facilities for dogs, grooming tables and more.

"The animals are incredibly stressed when they’re moved to a strange location, without the trauma they’ve probably been through in an abusive home," Kennedy said.

Is this a needed facility? Kennedy says Harbor House gets one or two calls a week from people who call the emergency hotline asking if they can bring their pets.

"We try to set them up with foster homes," Kennedy said. "But people want to be with their pets. They’re all traumatized, and they want to be together."

But while the shelter is moving forward, Harbor House still needs help.

Here's what you can do:

You can go to the Harbor House of Florida website to donate money to the facility in one of several different ways, including a straight donation, purchasing a tile or donating money to get special Kuranda dog beds for the shelter.

You can also donate items. Harbor House has a list of items they need on their website. Check out the list (you need Adobe Acrobat reader), and then email the person below for more info.

All photos courtesy of Harbor House of Central Florida.

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