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Domestic violence shelter in NYC first to welcome families and their pets

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Sadly, pets are not exempt from domestic violence. Abusers even use them as a means to prevent victims from leaving, out of fear for their pet's safety.

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In fact, more than 70% of pet owners who enter a shelter say the abuser has threatened, injured, or killed family pets, and as many as 48% of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations out of concern for their pets, according to the ASPCA.

But what if there was a place for victims to go with their pets? In New York City, now there is.

URI PALS Project - People and Animals Living Safely - launched in June 2013, gave families at Urban Resource Institute (URI), NYC's largest emergency shelter, a safe, private retreat to heal with their cats and other small animals. In February 2014, the ASPCA joined the initiative and provided URI with a $75,000 grant and offered vet care assistance at its animal hospital.

At a ceremony on March 18, 2014, URI and Nestle Purina PetCare, who contributed funds for the design and construction, celebrated the opening of the Purina Play Haven and Dog Park. This is NYC's first dog park in a domestic violence shelter, and the official expansion of the program to welcome dogs. Among the 50 domestic violence shelters in NYC, URI is the only one to accommodate pets in residence.

Gerard P. Paul, Principal at GEPAUL ARCHITECTS, designed the space to ensure that pets and people in the shelter had a safe and enjoyable outdoor area to spend quality time together. Watch video (left).

“When my children and I found out that we could bring our dog, Sparky, with us into shelter, we were overjoyed. Sparky had always been there with us to comfort and even protect us from the abuse, and having him there with us as we work to put our lives back together makes our recovery process so much better." - domestic violence survivor

To learn more about URIPALS and for tips on keeping your family safe in domestic violence situations, visit

“There are so many layers in domestic violence situations, and every member of the family is affected—including pets, who are often targeted as a way to threaten or control victims—which is why we are so grateful for the ASPCA’s partnership in helping people and pets escape violence together." -Nathaniel Fields, URI president

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