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Pet-Friendly Domestic Violence Shelters Help Abuse Victims Stay Safe

Circe Denyer | Flickr
52% of domestic abuse victims who check into shelters leave their pets with their batterers, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Here’s a sobering statistic from the animal advocacy nonprofit Red Rover: Only 10% of domestic violence shelters accept pets. That means many people fleeing abuse find themselves giving up animals with whom they’ve formed meaningful bonds. And sometimes, those animals themselves are at risk of experiencing abusive behavior. 

Such was the case for Jill and her 10 year old lab-mix named Scarlet. Like Jill, Scarlet is also a domestic violence survivor of the same situation. 

After Jill made the decision to leave her abuser for a home for domestic violence survivors, she could only find one place that allowed dogs – it was in Kansas City and it was always full. So, Jill spent a year couch surfing, staying at friends’ and families’ places, until she found Lydia’s House. Lydia’s House is a St. Louis shelter that houses battered women for up to two years.

“It’s made a big difference for both of us,” said Jill. “To me, Scarlet is not optional. I made a commitment to her, and she and I are a team. So if I was going, she was going.”

The pet-friendly amenities at Lydia’s House are the result of Purina’s Purple Leash Projectand the work of Rescue Rebuild.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske discussed this ongoing effort with Purina president Nina Leigh Kruger and Karen Kirk, the executive director of Lydia’s House. 

Listen to their conversation:

Producer’s note: Due to the nature of this topic and her experience as a domestic abuse survivor, we have made the decision to only use Jill’s first name for this story.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan, Alexis Moore and Tonina Saputo. The engineer is Aaron Doerr and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
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