• Volusia County group offers help to domestic violence victims with pets


    VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - For many victims of domestic violence, the decision to leave their situation isn’t easy.

    For those victims who own beloved pets, that are sometimes victims of the abuse themselves, it is also a difficult decision to leave them behind in order to take refuge at a shelter.

    Hush Puppy Haven has helped more than 70 families over the years.

    Sophie Vessa is a victim’s advocate for the Daytona Beach Police Department. Vessa said they've had 117 cases of domestic violence reported in November. The city has 64,000 people.

    “Alcohol involved, stress, finances and, uh, creates problems with families. It's very sad. Most (domestic violence) shelters don't allow pets,” Vessa said.

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    Vessa said that means victims of domestic violence must decide either to stay in a dangerous situation or leave their pets behind.

    Jen Adams founded Hush Puppy Haven five years ago because she wanted to do something to help animals while giving back to her community.

    “If you have kids, you're not going to leave your kids behind, but a lot of people, you know, their pets are their kids,” said Adams.

    The group relies on donations to care for and house the pets while their owners look for a new place to live.

    Adams houses pets at her home for a day to figure out its personality and then matches it with the volunteer she thinks would be the best fit to take care of it until their owner is ready to take them back.

    Adams said she sympathizes with the difficult situation that many victims find themselves in.

    “Our pets, they don't choose us, they don't choose what kind of life they have with us, and they trust us and love us unconditionally,” said Adams.

    Supporters said the haven saves lives and keeps families and their pets together.

    “Without Hush Puppy Haven, they would have lost their animals,” said Vessa.

    Hush Puppy Haven said it accepts all pets and breeds that are referred to it through the Domestic Abuse Council of Volusia County.

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