One of the country’s biggest and oldest domestic violence shelters will now be allowing families to stay together. The Sojourner Center in Phoenix is welcoming pets who are also seeking refuge from abuse.
Much like one might find in an animal shelter, the center has a kennel area for the pets who pass through their doors. The quarters might not be ideal, but they are certainly more appealing than the prospect of being left behind in the care of someone who may cause them harm.
Many people who suffer from home abuse are scared to leave, and for many reasons. They worry about being judged by friends and family, they worry about not having enough money to make it on their own, they are afraid the abusive person will be even angrier and more violent, they are scared of what might happen to their things. And most heartbreaking is the fact that many have to make the difficult choice between staying and enduring the pain, and leaving their beloved pets behind because they’re not allowed in a shelter.
That’s what happened to the Presslers. Jennifer and her son Robert fled an abusive situation in another state, but their cat, Clark Kent, wasn’t welcome at the Sojourner Center.
“Left Washington, it was a domestic violence situation, and I tried to stay with a friend and it didn’t work out,” Jennifer explained to KSAZ. “We wound up here on March 3rd, we came with our cat, and they said we couldn’t keep him, and we were going to leave and I didn’t have anywhere to go.”
Robert really missed his buddy, and noticed that there was a section of the center not in use.
“I made a suggestion for a shelter here in the back where nobody uses, and the last two months they’ve been working on it,” he said.
PetSmart donated $50,000 to the pet program, which will help the center make sure that there is plenty of room and lots of amenities for their guests. There will be space for eight dogs, eight cats, and supplies to house birds and fish. Shelter residents will be responsible for feeding, walking, and cleaning up after their animals.
Now Clark Kent has a space to himself.
“It was really heart wrenching, it just makes me really happy,” said Jennifer.
In addition to helping keep families together, staff at the center know that pets can provide comfort to people, and plan to offer pet therapy with their counseling.
“It feels good to know that I’m here right here next to my cat, and he’s here whenever I need someone to comfort me,” Robert admitted.
“Pets are amazing when it comes to healing. We are not only able to give this to the pet parents who are here, but to other residents who are here, too,” said Jodi Polanski, executive director of Lost Our Home pet rescue. “The pet therapy component will give the other residence the same unconditional love.”
To see more photos of the new pet companion shelter, please click here.