Sojourner Center, one of the largest and longest running domestic violence shelters in the United States, recently received a donation from PetSmart Charities to help fund the center’s new pet shelter program.
The Sojourner Pet Companion Shelter will offer shelter for the pets of women in the program, as well as a foster pet care program. The program is a venture with Sojourner Center’s partner, Lost Our Home Pet Rescue, a Phoenix-based pet shelter that enables families in crises to keep their pets.
Research demonstrates that 71 percent of abused women reported that the abuser threatened, harmed or killed family pets. Many women fear that their pets will be hurt or killed if they leave them behind with their abuser, and this influences their decision of whether or not to leave.
“We have seen too many women make the heartbreaking decision between leaving a dangerous situation at home and giving up their pet or remaining in an unsafe situation,” said Maria E. Garay, M.S.W., Ph.D., Sojourner Center chief executive officer.
The first phase of the program officially launches this spring, with the opening of an on-site kennel facility to be used by pet parents who are seeking shelter with the center. The facility will be able to accommodate eight dogs and eight cats, with special accommodations for other types of family pets such as birds and fish. Pet parents who are staying at the shelter will be responsible for feeding, exercising and socializing with their pet at least twice a day.
In addition to the on-site pet care program, Sojourner Center and Lost Our Home Pet Rescue will be introducing a pet therapy program, allowing all shelter residents to receive the therapeutic benefits of pet therapy; programs for residents to teach responsible pet care; a workforce readiness program to teach animal-related job skills; and a foster pet care program for pets of domestic violence survivors who are not living at Sojourner.