When the Rose Brooks Center for women took in a domestic violence victim and her heroic dog, they bent the rules in doing so, setting the wheels in motion for a much needed change in policy.
Like most battered women’s shelters, the Rose Brooks Center did not accommodate pets. But this was no ordinary dog: when her boyfriend tried to kill the woman with a hammer, her fearless Great Dane jumped in the way, laying over her body and taking most of the blows until the man threw both of them out of a second story window. The dog, Hank, suffered multiple broken bones in the attack, sparing his owner’s life in the process.
Despite their injuries, the woman was able to escape with her dog, and eventually made her way to the Rose Brooks Center. When they offered her a bed and told her no pets were allowed, she was defiant, and for the first time in its history, the shelter overlooked regulations and allowed the dog to stay.
That decision would eventually lead to a permanent change in policy. Knowing that forty percent of battered women with pets stay in abusive relationships in order to protect their pets, the center’s chief executive officer, Susan Miller, said adding a pet-friendly wing would remove a serious barrier that women face when attempting to leave an abuser. Miller was the one who had ultimately made the call to admit the woman and her dog.
“They provide so much comfort, and to have to leave that pet behind is so heartbreaking,” Miller said. “It has become abundantly clear that the incredible therapeutic benefits that pets can have on a family greatly outweigh the cost and inconvenience of housing them.”
The center is investing $140,000 in renovations that will add seven kennels, a walking trail and pet-friendly play area. Future victims of abuse in the Kansas City area will no longer have to choose between personal safety and the well-being of their four-legged loved ones, a change that shelter officials believe will save lives.
Miller points out that none of this would have been likely were it not for the fierce devotion of a pet and the unwavering love of the woman he saved, and that there was just no way she could turn the two away.
“She was not going to leave her pet alone with him,” she said. “He saved her life.”
Update (6-12-12) The Rose Brooks Center celebrated the opening of its pet kennel today. The pets will have a walking trail and a play area on-site, and shelter occupants are elated at the news.
Rose Brooks Family Center CEO Susan Miller said the change was long overdue. “Up until today, women have had to make a choice – get to safety or abandon their pets. I’m so glad they don’t have to make that choice anymore,” Miller said.
The shelter cost $160,000 to build, and donations will be required to fund vet care, food and housing needs. To show your support for this terrific initiative with a donation, visit http://www.rosebrooks.org.