By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
May 24, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla (WCTV) -- Women fleeing domestic violence in Tallahassee no longer have to worry about leaving their pets behind. The Refuge House is about to open its brand new kennels, so every member of the family is safe.
Alicia Armstrong and her dog Harper checked out the Refuge House's new kennels.
"Seeing this made me tear up a little bit actually,” she said. "This is huge."
The domestic violence survivor is a driving force in making sure women trying to flee abusive relationships don't have to worry about leaving their pets behind.
"After one argument we had that lasted all night, things kind of escalated to include Harper not being treated very nicely. She was the reason I made that decision that night to leave," Armstrong said.
The Refuge House now has four dog kennels and a cat room.
"The setup is just sweet and if I were a cat that's where I'd like to be right now," Refuge House Director Meg Baldwin said as she showed off the cat condos, hammocks and adjoining “cat-io.”
The kennels will allow the whole family – including cats and dogs - to stay together. Refuge House’s Emergency Shelter Manager Alisa Footman hears that worry all the time when women call the domestic violence hotline.
"It's very often we get calls on the hotline where survivors actually have witnessed their pets being abused," she said.
Right now, families who come to Refuge House can count on the Animal Service Center and the local Humane Society to take care of their pets for free temporarily. Starting July 1, Refuge House will be able to care for pets. The pets can be near their people and provide comfort.
"The pet is part of the family. I have a grandson that refers to our pet as his brother," Footman said.
Harper is the first to run free in the pet play yard.
"So, it's been christened," Armstrong said with a laugh.
Armstrong and those dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence say the space could make all the difference in deciding to stay or go.
The kennels were paid for with a total of $60,000 in grants from RedRover and GreaterGood.org. Those non-profits also supplied volunteers for the two-week build.
A volunteer veterinarian will help to take care of the animals.