Ten years ago, Rose Brooks Center became the first program in the region to accept pets. The policy change happened when a domestic violence survivor contacted the hotline seeking shelter but refused to enter the facilities because she would have had to leave her pet behind. Even more so because this pet, a 110-pound Great Dane named J. Matthew, had just saved her life by laying on top of her during an attack. On that day, Rose Brooks Center accepted their first pet, and a legacy was born.
Although the giant Great Dane was the first animal to live at Rose Brooks, he was not the last. To this day, J. Matthew’s memory lives on in the more than 500 pets of all kinds who have found safety along with their owners.
“We have always known the incredible therapeutic benefits pets can have on a family experiencing trauma, but didn’t have the resources to accept pets,” explains Rose Brooks Center’s CEO, Lisa Fleming. “But after the experience of this survivor and her Great Dane, it was clear this was something we had to add to our program to better serve survivors and their children.”
Since opening in 2012, the program has protected approximately 75 pets per year, providing over 2,900 nights of safety annually. Today, growth continues with plans in place to physically expand the cat shelter, retrofit shelter bedrooms to accommodate pets, and to continue providing training, education, and advocacy to other agencies throughout the community and across the country to better serve survivors and their pets.
Rose Brooks Center believes housing pets in the shelter is one way of helping to remove another barrier a survivor faces when trying to escape violence. The program has allowed survivors and their families to find safety for themselves and their pets instead of staying in what otherwise would be a dangerous situation. To date, hundreds of families and pets have been able to find safety and healing — together.