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Opening of the 1st Entirely Pet-Friendly Domestic Violence Shelter in the U.S.

Opening of the 1st Entirely Pet-Friendly Domestic Violence Shelter in the U.S.

Press Release from Urban Resource Institute

New York – October 30, 2018 – Urban Resource Institute (URI), the largest provider of domestic violence shelter and support services in the country, today announced the opening of PALS Place, a seven-story emergency shelter in Brooklyn. PALS Place is the first-ever domestic violence shelter of its size in the country specifically designed and outfitted for survivor-pet co-living, providing 30 one- and two-bedroom apartments where up to 100 survivors, whether individuals or families, can heal together in safety with their pets. As an entirely pet-friendly facility, the shelter provides dedicated spaces for pet grooming and play as well as unique animal-centric programming to help residents of all species thrive.

According to research cited by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 70 percent of domestic violence victims report that their pets were either threatened, harmed, or killed by an abuser. However, only about 3 percent of domestic violence shelters in the United States accommodate pets, forcing individuals and families to make the nearly impossible choice of abandoning their pets to enter shelter, or remaining in an unsafe environment and risking further abuse. In fact, 48 percent of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations rather than leave their pets behind.

“URI’s core mission is to provide compassionate and comprehensive services that benefit all victims of abuse, including historically underserved victims, and reduce barriers to seeking existing resources,” said Nathaniel M. Fields, president and CEO of Urban Resource Institute. “By providing survivors of abuse with co-living options that keep people and pets together, PALS Place marks a significant milestone in URI’s ongoing commitment to addressing service gaps through innovative programming and approaches to ending cycles of abuse.”

URI established the PALS (People and Animals Living Safely) Program in 2013 and began retrofitting existing URI shelters with pet-friendly elements, creating New York City’s first-ever co-living program of its kind. Celebrating five years of PALS, the newly designed and constructed PALS Place represents the next step in URI offering innovative services for New York City’s most vulnerable populations.

As URI’s first-ever entirely pet-friendly shelter, PALS Place will feature unique programming centered around the human-pet bond. Specific programmatic elements include:

  • Residents – Twice per year, PALS residents will have access to a short-term group session about human and animal healing. Quarterly, residents will be invited to attend recreational activities, such as a facility-wide barbecue or a trip to a local animal shelter. These events will incorporate tips for animal care, information about resources available for pet families in New York City, and introductions to the animal welfare profession. Special guests will be invited to these sessions, including therapy animal teams, professional dog trainers, and other animal care workers.

Survivors and pets living in PALS Place will have access to a dedicated pet grooming room complete with a pet ramp and professional-grade stainless steel tub that can be adjusted to higher and lower levels to accommodate both large and small pets. Periodic visits from groomers and/or veterinarians will be scheduled to provide care for pets in residence.

  • Children – Animal-focused programming will be integrated into childcare provided at PALS Place. Once per month, PALS staff will join childcare staff to provide educational sessions on safe interactions with animals and how to care for pets. Special guests will be invited to these sessions, including therapy animal teams and local educators. Once per quarter, children will be invited on a field trip into the community to learn about zoo animals, farm animals, and local wildlife to foster an appreciation of the natural world.
  • Staff – PALS Place will employ over 30 administrative, clinical, and operational staff trained in creating a healing environment that helps adults, children, and pets recover from trauma and prepare for independent living. This includes staff training on animal body language and offering ongoing professional development opportunities like tours of local animal shelters or presentations from animal welfare experts. Every three months, staff will be invited to share their ideas for improving and expanding PALS Place programming via survey. They will provide ongoing support of PALS families, including coordinating free pet medical care courtesy of the ASPCA and identifying pet-friendly housing options for survivors after shelter.

From a construction and architecture standpoint, every aspect of PALS Place is designed to be as welcoming, safe, and healthy as possible for families and pets adjusting to life in the shelter. This includes painting hallways non-white colors that are calming to pets’ eyes and installing Crane Composite Fiberglass reinforced wall panels and in-apartment wainscoting to maintain a durable and hygienic space free of stains, scratches, and smells.

PALS Place also has several communal areas for residents to assemble and engage in recreational and therapeutic activities, including an outdoor rooftop and an indoor recreation space with computers. A community room with a kitchen provides opportunities for residents to socialize, hold celebrations, and participate in educational workshops. Additional amenities for individuals and families include an on-site laundry room and secure outdoor play area for children. Heights Advisors, a community real estate developer focused on strengthening local communities by creating housing with access to social services, was URI’s partner in the construction of PALS Place.

To encourage the exercise, play, and bonding time that is vital to pets’ health during times of transition and stress, an outdoor “Pet Haven” play area is located on the property. The Pet Haven features play structures and padded grass that creates a safe and resilient playground environment for pets and children alike. PALS supporter Purina will provide each resident with a welcome kit containing pet food, treats, toys, and critical supplies like water bowls, collars, leashes, litter, and litter boxes.

URI first announced the development and construction of PALS Place during a jointly-hosted panel discussion (full video here). The panel included national experts in the domestic violence and animal welfare spaces discussing the often misunderstood role pets play in abusive situations and how to create an ecosystem of services to protect families, individuals, and pets experiencing abuse.

URI’s PALS program now spans six facilities located throughout New York City, providing more than 100 pet-welcoming units for domestic violence survivors and their pets. To date, URI has welcomed over 130 pets into its residences, including dogs, cats, turtles, birds, guinea pigs, lizards, and fish.

For more information about URI’s services and to donate to support the mission of PALS, please visit https://www.urinyc.org.

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