JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - "Cindy" remembers one of the hardest choices of her life: leaving her abusive ex to save herself, but having to leave her beloved dog behind.
“One of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever done. I cried every day for years," she said. "There was nowhere to go, shelters around here aren’t going to let you bring a poodle, much less a 120 pound mutt. And at that point I kinda had to tell myself that I didn’t have a dog anymore, that I had raised from 5 weeks old.”
Only 12 percent of safe houses and women's shelters in America have on-site provisions for pets, according to Sandy Middleton, executive director of the Center for Violence Prevention. But among that number is now a shelter in the metro area.
Victims of domestic violence can now bring their dogs and cats and other domesticated pets with them when it’s time to get out of a dangerous relationship. Middleton said knowing their pets are safe is an invaluable comfort to her clients.
“You know, one of the things we want, is every client that walks through our door, we want them to feel a sense of peace and relief," Middleton said. "One of our clients just said to me as I was walking down the hall, ‘I got a good night’s sleep last night for the first time in as long as I can remember.’”
There are therapy dogs, employee’s dogs, and clients’ dogs that may greet you at the door of the shelter. In the interest of protecting victims’ identities, none of the dogs we’re showing are clients’ dogs.
Children at the shelter are also comforted by having pets around, Middleton said.
“The kids love to take one of the dogs into the play therapy room, and they’ll get in the tent with them and interact with the pets," she said.
“Cindy” says such a place would have changed her life.
“Like I’m sitting here like, ‘Oh my god, where was that four or five years ago?’" Cindy said. "I would have left a lot quicker had that option been available to me.”
If you need help getting out of an abusive relationship, please call the Center for Violence Prevention at at 1-800-266-4198 or 601-932-4198.
If you’d like to donate to the center, you can visit their Facebook page.