ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - There’s a new push to add more kennels to domestic abuse shelters to help women in abusive relationships who don’t want to leave their pets behind.
The effort could be modeled after a program in central Florida.
Currently, 3 percent of domestic abuse shelters nationwide have kennels and Harbor House in Orange County is one of them.
A victim staying at Harbor House said she stayed in an abusive relationship longer than she had to because she couldn’t leave her beloved dogs behind.
“He actually said he would kill me, burn my body,” said victim, who can’t be identified out of concerns for her safety. “He would beat them (the dogs) the same way, to the point where I would jump in front of one of them. Then I would get it, and she would jump in front of me.”
Part of the kennel at Harbor House is for dogs and the other is for cats, but the shelter has taken in all sorts of animals, including turtles, birds and guinea pigs.
A new bill could lead to more kennels at shelters across the country by creating a federal grant program to help accommodate pets.
“These animals need a lot of care. They’re traumatized,” said Harbor House CEO Carol Wick.
Wick said it costs between $20,000 and $30,000 a year to care for the animals at the shelter.
“Some of them have legs that have been broken and haven’t healed, or healed at the wrong angle,” Wick said. “And some of them are very aggressive from being hit or being in a home where there’s a lot of violence.”
Private donations keep the shelter open.
The victim said she is proof the program saves lives and federal funding could save more.
Harbor House will hold its annual Paws for Peace walk to next month to raise money for its kennel.