NYC Domestic Violence Shelter Opens Doors to Dogs

The expansion of URIPALS allows for domestic abuse survivors reside at a shelter with their pet.

By | Posted: March 25, 2014, 9 a.m. PST

New York City’s first dog park in a domestic-violence shelter, called the Purina Play Haven and Dog Park, opened this month.

Urban Resource Institute and Nestlé Purina Pet Care hosted the ribbon cutting. The ceremony also recognized the official expansion of URIPALS, People and Animals Living Safely,  a pilot program launched in June 2013 to make it possible for domestic-violence survivors to go into a shelter with their cats and other small animals. Thanks to the sponsorship of Purina, the Urban Resource Institute will now be able to accept families with dogs.

Photo courtesy Nestle Purina Pet Care

URI’s largest emergency shelter in New York City will now be a safe and calming place where families can heal together with their pets, who are sometimes the most comforting to be around in times of crisis. The dog park features a tunnel, ramp, bridge and platform for dogs to have fun and exercise. There are also as trellises overhead to ensure the privacy and security of shelter residents. The designer, Gerard P. Paul, principal at Geppaul Architects, says of the Purina Play Haven and Dog Park, "We saw the potential to give new meaning to this former alleyway, and it is gratifying to have transformed it into a space that will tremendously benefit the community. We wanted to do everything we could to make sure that the pets and people in URI’s shelter have a safe and truly enjoyable outdoor area to spend quality time together.”


Dog Park.Photo courtesy Nestle Purina Pet Care 


According to Frank Ascione, Ph.D., (Utah State University, 1997, 1998), studies show that as many as 48 percent of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations out of fear of what would happen if they left their pets behind. More than 70 percent of pet owners who enter shelter report that the abuser has threatened, injured or killed family pets. Out of 50 domestic violence shelters in New York City, URI is the only one that shelter pets, which can relieve stress to residents, knowing their dog or cat is safe and there for them. For children who have been witness to a violent domestic situation, being away from their adored pet could cause even more trauma.

Two dogs outside.Photo courtesy Nestle Purina Pet Care

"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,” says Nathaniel Fields, President of URI. "As we open our doors to families with dogs and celebrate this critical milestone for URIPALS, we hope to continue the momentum and inspire other organizations in major cities nationwide that this initiative is possible.”

"When my children and I found out that we could bring our dog, Sparky, with us into shelter, we were overjoyed,” recalls an anonymous current resident in URI's. "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’m so grateful to Purina and URI for helping me and other families with pets stay together.”

Photo courtesy Nestle Purina Pet Care

Visit to learn more about URIPALS and for tips on keeping your family safe in domestic violence situations.


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player   Anaheim, CA

3/28/2014 10:38:04 AM


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Melian and Tiny   Etna, CA

3/25/2014 11:25:32 PM

That's great to hear. I hope there will be more like it.

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