YWCA to open state's first pet shelter for victims of domestic violence in 2021

Posted at 7:02 PM, Dec 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-03 20:02:05-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Keeping pets healthy, happy and safe are the new demands on the YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee. In the spring, a pet shelter will open at the Weaver Center, the state's largest emergency domestic violence shelter for women and children.

According to the YWCA, this will be a lifesaver. The YWCA looked at studies that found nearly half of all domestic violence victims chose to remain in a violent home because pets had no where to go.

"They are people's children, and people put those pets on a pedestal and if an abuser knows this is your weak spot the pet can be used as a tool to control you in an abusive relationship," said Sharon Roberson, President and CEO of the YWCA.

The YWCA has heard from victims on the crisis line that choosing to leave a home when a pet is there is extremely difficult.

"Nobody wants to leave any part of their family behind when they seek shelter," Roberson said.

Mothers struggle even more with this decision.

"It's just one more emotional decision you have to make and that can be enough to make you stay," said Rusty Burdge, a survivor of domestic violence.

Twelve years ago, Burdge went to the Weaver Center with her three kids, but without their gerbil and dog. The conversation she had with her children was hard.

"It's like saying 'we can take you, but not your brother' or 'hey guys, we have to leave your best friend so we can be safe.' Kids don't understand that in that moment," Burdge said.

Construction of the new pet shelter will begin in January.

"If you're in a situation that doesn't make you safe, this is one less concern you have to have because it's a good place, it's a safe place," Burdge said.

According to the YWCA, Amazon delivered the final funding which was a $156,000 donation.