The Paws for Peace Kennel opened last year at the Harbor House of Central Florida complex.
The idea for the kennel came about eight years ago. The goal was a privately-funded facility that cared for the pets of domestic violence victims – more like a doggy day care than a shelter.
“We had one $50,000 donation from the Orange County Animal Services trust fund but the remaining was all private,” said Carol Wick, CEO for Harbor House.
The kennel includes special kennels for dogs, cubbies for cats, dog runs, a park and a cat porch.
But the first pet to enter the shelter? A guinea pig.
Since then the shelter has also cared for 44 dogs, 14 cats and a bird.
Harbor House said 49 families were able to escape their situation thanks to the kennel. Could they escape without their pets? Maybe.
However, 48 percent of domestic abuse victims will hold off on leaving because they fear what will happen to their pets.
Many shelters do try to find some way to make accommodations, partnering with an animal shelter or rescue. But few shelters across the country have the ability to take pets in, like Harbor House does now.
Up to 85 percent of domestic abuse victims say their partner threatened, hurt or killed a pet.
Before the opening of the shelter, which services Orange County primarily, Harbor House got one or two calls a week from people who needed a place for their pet.
The goal now is to get more shelters across the country to do. Harbor House is now working to help other shelters open a kennel like theirs.
Harbor House also continues to raise money and seek donations to keep the shelter going. In April the shelter will host the Paws for Peace Walk fundraiser. It’s being held in April to coincide with National Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month.
People who want to donate can go to Harbor House FL.com