Empower Yolo is excited to announce it is pet friendly. Often, people will not leave an abusive situation if they know they will have to leave a beloved pet behind. Empower Yolo is expanding to provide temporary pet boarding, resources, and supplies to care for animals while a client is staying in our emergency shelter.

Research shows offenders of domestic violence often abuse pets too, especially if the victim leaves them behind. When survivors of abuse seek to escape their abusive homes they are not only facing the challenge of finding safe shelter for themselves and their families, but also for their beloved pets (Red Rover).

“It was so important for the shelter to become pet friendly because more survivors can decide to leave their abusers,” says Sonia Jimenez, Shelter Director at Empower Yolo. “Many times clients come to the shelter but can’t bring their pets so they are very scared about what the abusers are going to do with their pets; now that we are pet friendly clients can make that decision,” says Jimenez.

Unfortunately, many shelters do not have the means to house comfort animals and many survivors are left facing the difficult decision to either leave their pets behind or remain in the abusive environment. Sadly, many survivors stay in abusive homes for fear of subjecting their animals to continued abuse, if left behind. (Red Rover)

Empower Yolo becoming pet friendly has helped clients like Tatiana (her name has been changed for confidentiality) and her puppy, Marley. Tatiana came to Empower Yolo’s emergency safe house after two abusive relationships and being homeless. She realized she needed to get out of that situation to do better for her children. She took the first steps to change her life by calling the 24-hour crisis line. “When I first got to the shelter they didn’t think they could take Marley, and I thought if he has to leave then I have to leave too,” says Tatiana. “I would not have stayed at the shelter without Marley. He was a gift to my children – he is my comfort,” she says. Tatiana was relieved to find out she could bring Marley to stay with her at the shelter.

Having pets together with their owners at the shelter has therapeutic benefits for our clients. “This helps clients to focus more on the empowerment program while they are in the shelter instead of worrying about their pets; it gives them comfort to have their pets there with them,” says Jimenez. So far, the shelter has housed dogs, cats, fish and a lizard.

Empower Yolo’s main office in Woodland and the Multi-Disciplinary Interview Center (MDIC) share Daisy, a service dog. The client navigators have seen significant benefits to having a service dog available for clients experiencing trauma. “Holding or hugging a well-trained service dog is very effective at helping a person become grounded again and the body relax and recover from a traumatic experience,” says Rachael Austin, Lead Client Navigator at Empower Yolo.

In 2018, Empower Yolo provided 286 survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault or human trafficking shelter or transitional housing for 22,333 bed nights. We are hopeful we will reach even more survivors with these expanded services.

“We are in the early stages of becoming pet friendly, says Jimenez. “We need to be able to provide a lot of resources to care for these pets while they are at the shelter. We are hoping to build kennels outside. Some of the rooms will have a pet doors for animals to access the outside area; this is especially helpful for clients that work so their pets will be able to get outside and are not kept inside the kennel all the time,” says Jimenez.

Caring for pets at the shelter is another way Empower Yolo’s shelter staff supports our clients. “They have helped me so much with Marley,” says Tatiana. “They provided a kennel; they moved me into a room where there is a sliding door so I can let him out; he can run around and use the bathroom in the side area. When I go to work I can leave him in the kennel outside; they take him out for me when I’m not there. They do help with Marley a lot and they love him,” she says.

The community can support our efforts through financial contributions made at: www.empoweryolo.org. Donations will help us become pet accessible and will help provide resources to properly care for these animals such as veterinary care, shots, medications and grooming needs. We would also greatly appreciate donations from community members, which will help us better care for these pets such as dog and cat food, leashes, pet toys, dog beds and kennels. For questions or to donate items please contact [email protected], or call (530) 661-6336.

For clients such as Tatiana and Marley being able to stay together is helping her rebuild her life and move forward in a positive way. “It has meant a lot to me to have Marley in the shelter with me; he’s helping me out emotionally and by their support for me and Marley it’s helping us both; they treat me like family here and are helping me rebuild my life which is really wonderful,” she says.

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