IOWA CITY — The Domestic Violence Intervention Program’s domestic abuse shelter is going to the dogs — in the best way possible.
On Wednesday, DVIP announced the Cooper’s House program, which will see the shelter add dog kennels and a cat haven, allowing clients to bring their pets with them.
Missie Forbes, DVIP’s development director, said the initiative was borne out of “startling” statistics about domestic abuse victims and their pets.
“Seventy percent of victims have pets, and we found about 48 percent refuse to leave or delay leaving ... in order to keep their pets safe,” Forbes said Tuesday, noting abusers will use threats against pets to control their victims. “One of the ways we wanted to be able to assist victims in a different way is to offer the option of having their pets on site.”
Through the program, DVIP will be adding three indoor dog kennels, an outdoor dog run and an indoor “cat haven” that will house roughly a dozen cats, Forbes said. The shelter anticipates it will house between 15 to 20 cats and dogs per year, in addition to its existing pet fostering program that has provided homes to animals as diverse as bearded dragons, potbelly pigs and horses.
“Adding something like this is an innovative program,” Forbes said of the shelter, which serves clients from Johnson, Iowa, Washington, Cedar, Des Moines, Henry, Lee and Van Buren counties. “It’s just one more way to assist our clients to be able to live a productive life free of fear of any sort of safety issues. It’s just one more way we are fulfilling our mission.”
DVIP also has a Golden Retriever in training that will serve as a therapy dog for shelter clients and in the outreach program. They anticipate hiring a part-time pet therapist this summer.
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Forbes said the anticipated costs of the Cooper’s House program will be about $30,000 annually. Those costs will be defrayed by a $6,000 grant from the RedRover program — a nationwide initiative that seeks to have at least one domestic violence shelter with an on-site kennel in each state — as well as partnerships with the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center and Leash on Life, a local pet supply store. Anyone who wishes to donate can also visit the DVIP website.
Construction on the kennels is expected to begin in late April, and the new facilities should be ready on July 1, Forbes said.
“I think having their animal from home offers that extra support and comfort,” Forbes said of the shelter clients and their children.