YWCA opens safe place for pets to heal with their people

YWCA Board members shown (l to r): Rashed Fakhruddin, Gail Alexander, Joey Hatch, Rita P. Mitchell, Caroline Bradshaw, Amanda Weeks-Geveden (chair), Sharon K. Roberson (CEO), Lisa Ferrelli, Cynthia Whitfield-Story (chair-elect)

The largest emergency pet shelter for victims of domestic abuse in Tennessee is now open on the campus of the YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee’s Weaver Domestic Violence Center. Community and civic leaders gathered Aug. 24 for a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony at the 800-square foot facility that can house up to eight dogs and six cats at a time. The new pet shelter removes one of the greatest barriers for victims fleeing abuse and will allow people and their pets to stay together and heal together.

“This pet shelter is a game changer in the fight against domestic violence,” said Sharon K. Roberson, president/CEO of YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee. “Every week our crisis counselors take calls from victims who need to flee, but they won’t because they would have to leave their pets behind. Thanks to our generous community, victims and their pets can seek safety together at Abbie’s Safe Home right here on the campus of the Weaver Center.”

YWCA spent several years planning for this significant expansion of programming on the Weaver Center campus. YWCA volunteer and board member Gail Alexander has helped lead this effort. A passionate animal lover and advocate for victims of domestic violence, Alexander and her late mother (Abbie Wallace) contributed the initial investment in this life-saving program. Abbie’s Safe Home is named in her mother’s honor.

In addition to Alexander’s contributions, YWCA received support from many individual donors, corporations, and the U.S. Dept. of Justice. Local and national foundations and nonprofits, including Be Like Henry, Dugas Family Foundation, and RedRover, stepped up with significant grants for the life-saving pet project.

“RedRover is thrilled to support YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee in the creation of their new Abbie’s Safe Home,” said Nicole Forsyth, president/CEO of RedRover. “Domestic violence survivors often delay leaving their abuser because they cannot bring their pet. This large pet shelter removes that barrier and allows more survivors and their pets to seek safety together so they can begin the healing process together.”

COVID-19 added more urgency to this effort, as the pandemic revealed how many individuals (and their pets) are not safer at home. Amazon delivered the final piece of funding in late 2020. This investment enabled the YWCA to build and staff the state-of-the-art facility that includes high quality steel kennels, an isolation room (to verify vaccinations and pet health), and two large, fenced-in play yards.

“It is heartbreaking to think domestic violence survivors would have to choose between escaping a dangerous situation and leaving their pets behind,” said Courtney Ross, senior manager, of External Affairs at Amazon’s Nashville office. “By providing shelter to the pets of domestic violence victims, Abbie’s Home will mean more of our vulnerable neighbors can find safe refuge.”

The new pet shelter is expected to help and heal up to 100 pets annually. YWCA’s Weaver Domestic Violence Center offered over 13,200 nights of safety to survivors fleeing abuse last year and responded to more than 4,700 crisis calls and texts.

Leave a Reply