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Shelter offers refuge for domestic violence survivors’ pets

January 4, 2019

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A woman plays with her dog inside a small living room inside Noah’s Animal House. These spaces, called “cuddle rooms” by the staff and residents, give survivors of domestic violence the ability to connect with their pets and heal in a safe, homey environment.

Located on the Shade Tree women’s shelter campus in Southern Nevada, Noah’s Animal House provides refuge for the pets of domestic violence survivors. Oftentimes, victims of domestic violence remain in abusive situations out of fear for their pets’ well-being.

“Women won’t leave if they can’t bring their pets,” said Staci Alonso, founder of Noah’s Animal House.

In the 11 years that Noah’s has been open on the Shade Tree campus, the shelter has kept families safe and together by housing more than 1,400 pets. Noah’s Animal House is also a part of the PAWS Act Coalition, an organization that worked to get the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act passed on a federal level.

The PAWS Act was passed by Congress as part of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill. The PAWS Act establishes grants for domestic violence shelters to secure funding for pet-friendly programs like Noah’s Animal House throughout the United States.

Alonso says Nevada has been progressive in its protections for survivors of domestic violence and their pets, but the PAWS Act will ensure that other states can provide better care to pet owners escaping violent and abusive situations so more women’s shelters can become pet-friendly.

“Abusers often threaten to harm or inflict violence on a pet in order to control their victims,” said Nathaniel Fields, president and CEO of New York’s Urban Resource Institute (URI), in a news statement. URI provides social services to domestic violence survivors and their pets and is also on the PAWS Act Coalition.

In Las Vegas, Alonso says Noah’s Animal House averages kenneling 130 to 150 pets and nearly 10,000 free boarding nights a year. “Women are staying at Shade Tree longer now because the affordable housing market is so tight,” she said. On average, a woman stays at Shade Tree for two months. Noah’s ensures their furry loved ones also have a place to stay.

On the Shade Tree campus, pets and their owners are just a building away. Noah’s has indoor and outdoor dog runs, cat condos and cuddle rooms where animals can play and spend quality time with their humans.

When it comes to providing aid to survivors of domestic violence, Alonso said pets are “an important component of the solution.”

“We wanted to provide a home setting so that they can feel normal for a while,” Alonso said. “The magic is in the unconditional love that a pet provides a woman and a child in these conditions.”

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Information from: Las Vegas Sun, http://www.lasvegassun.com

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