First Dog Park in NYC Domestic Violence Shelter

URIPALS expands the program to include canines
By JoAnna Lou, March 2014

Last year I wrote about URIPALS, New York City's first initiative to allow victims of domestic violence to enter shelters with their pets. At the time the program was part of a pilot and only included cats and smaller animals. Thanks to the initiative's success, URIPALS is now welcoming dogs into their largest shelter. To mark the expansion, the Urban Resource Institute (URI) and Nestlé Purina PetCare hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony today for the city's first ever dog park in a domestic violence shelter. The Purina Play Haven and Dog Park will provide a relaxing space for families and features a ramp, tunnel, bridge, and platform for the dogs to play on.

“Since launching URIPALS, we’ve seen how transformative it is for families in domestic violence situations to go through the healing process together with their pets,” said Nathaniel Fields, President of URI. “We are grateful to Purina for helping URI make this dog park a reality, and for their shared commitment to keeping people and pets together, especially in times of crisis.”

As many as 48 percent of women will delay leaving an abusive situation out of concern for their pets. Programs like URIPALS are important for reducing barriers to safety for families with pets in domestic violence situations.

No one can demonstrate the impact of the new program better than the participants. One of the domestic violence survivors, who is currently staying in URI's shelter, couldn't be more thankful.

“When my children and I found out that we could bring our dog, Sparky, with us into shelter, we were overjoyed,” she said. “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."

I hope that other organizations in cities around the world will be inspired to create similar programs and build upon the success of URIPALS.

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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