From state of the art dog and cat kennels, to a fancy pet-washing station and brand new dog park, you might think that Paws for Peace is an animal lodge. It's really much more.
With a symbolic ribbon cutting ceremony held on Thursday, Harbor House of Central Florida opened its first pet-friendly domestic violence shelter.
"This is a really exciting day for us," said Carol Wick, CEO of Harbor House.
Indeed a major step, because for the first time in Florida, a victim of domestic violence will have a safe place to escape to without having to leave their pets behind.
"About 50 percent of people in abusive relationships delay leaving, because they don't want to leave a pet behind. When you talk to people in a shelter, 80% have had pets that have been injured or killed by their perpetrator," said Wick.
She said bringing Fido or Felix along also proves to be emotionally beneficial to the survivor and their children. "Pets have such a therapeutic reaction for people, especially trauma survivors. They can come in here 24/7," said Wick.
This 3,500 square-foot facility and storage area is paid for by a grant through public and private donations. Pictures in the entrance way show some of the donors' beloved pets.
Orlando Police Chief Paul Rooney calls the facility is a win-win for everyone. "This will definitely help that victim make that decision," said Chief Rooney.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacob agrees. "Walking away from a pet, you can't do it. it's hard enough to walk away. So that's why this is crucially important that we take down all
A local dog groomer has volunteered their services for pets staying at Paws for Peace. Harbor House is now looking for a few veterinarians to volunteer, in case one of their pet survivors gets sick. They are also looking for some volunteers to help keep the facility clean and to play with some of the animals, once they start arriving.