According to a report by National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in three women has experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, with criminal domestic violence accounting for 15 percent of all crime in North Carolina. The risk of homicide increases 500 percent if there is a gun in the home.
The Columbus County Animal Shelter and Families First of Columbus and Bladen Counties have developed the Pets and Women’s Shelter (PAWS) program to provide assistance for those suffering from domestic or sexual abuse by creating a place to safely house their family pet while the family is staying at the Family’s First shelter. A safe haven is provided for women and children who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault in Columbus and Bladen Counties. Each family will know their pet is in a safe place until they can get back on their feet.
Sadly, many victims stay in abusive homes for fear of subjecting their animals to continued abuse, if the pet were to be left behind. Equally disturbing, animals are often left with their abusers to face torture or even death. More than 85 percent of women who own pets reported their abuser threatened, injured or killed their pet. As many as 48 percent of women stay in an abusive relationship because domestic violence shelters refuse to house their pet, which leads to more women dying at the hands of their batterer.
The PAWS program works by housing the dogs in the quarantine area or in the new outside kennels that the county board has approved, depending on the weather and space considerations. Cats belonging to the abused will be kept in the quarantine area. Donated funds will ensure all of the animals who enter under the program are up to date on their vaccinations and are spayed/neutered while at the shelter. These animals will have a different color intake kennel card to ensure they’re not accidentally adopted.
To help promote this partnership, the Animal Shelter will be holding an event with Families First on November 29 with a fundraising lunch at the Columbus County Arts Council at 822 South Madison Street in Whiteville. The fundraiser is being held to help raise funds to help pay for damage suffered in the flooding from Hurricane Matthew when the Families First office flooded and they lost three computers and hundreds of dollars in office supplies. The flooding also wiped out about 70 percent of the merchandise at their thrift store.
The adoption fee for any animal adopted that day will be donated to Families First to help with the flood-related costs. Adoptable cats, dogs, puppies and kittens will be available from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. that day at the Columbus County Arts Council.
Incorporated in 1995, funding and support come from individuals and the community of Columbus and Bladen counties through donations and sales at the thrift stores, the government of Columbus County, Governor’s Crime Commission, and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
If you or someone you love is being abused, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or go online to DomesticShelters.org. Domestic violence shelters in North Carolina can be found by clicking here. More information can be found on the Families First website (which includes a 24/7 hotline and a “quick escape” button for women who may have to leave the website quickly for safety reasons).
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