Harlem is home to the first-ever domestic abuse shelter in Manhattan that has a dog park for victims and their pets.
Located in the Urban Women’s Retreat, the only shelter in Manhattan that allows domestic abuse victims to even bring their pets to a safe place, the park provides a safe haven for residents to play with their dog (opposed to risking their safety taking them for walks on the streets).
Named the Purina Pet Haven, the backyard space has artificial turf, stairs, play equipment and water for dogs, according to DNA.info.
“For those of us that have pets knowing that you have the support that you need moving forward, imagining your life with your pet children, there is really nothing that can describe that,” Jasmin, who has two dogs, told the outlet (name changed to protect the victim). “To be able to see that they have beds and toys and food it gave me a little bit of extra strength to see myself through the next day.”
Kurt Venator, director of veterinary strategy and programs for Purina, which funded the park, told the outlet that nearly half of domestic violence victims don’t leave an abusive situation, because they are scared of what will happen to their pets. And for those that need to leave their pets behind 70 percent report the pet was harmed, threatened or killed, Venator said.
The park is part of URI’s PALS — people and animals living safely — program. This is the second time Purina has teamed up with URIPALS. In the spring of 2014, Purina also created Purina Play Haven in the URI’s Safe Haven shelter in Brooklyn, the first-ever dog park at a domestic-violence shelter in New York City.
Supporters hope this is just the first stop in bringing more dog parks to shelters that house domestic violence victims. They are pushing for the PALS program to move across the state, and hopefully country.
“The need for this shelter and this program is clear,” said Venator.
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence call the city’s domestic violence hotline at 1 (800) 621-4673.