Sarasota domestic violence shelter doing more to house victims' pets

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Officials at a domestic violence shelter in Sarasota say an estimated 48 percent of domestic violence victims won't leave if they can't bring along the family pet. 

That's why the shelter is making improvements to help them welcome even more victims and their furry friends.

Within the four walls of Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center, SPARCC, pets are getting a second chance at life, just like their owners. 

"It's like leaving a child behind. You aren't going to leave them in a dangerous situation. You are going to try and find a different solution or set them out," said Cherie Heasley. 

SPARCC provides shelter for women and men who are escaping domestic violence.

"Creating a homey environment for pets is just as important for creating a homey environment for survivors," SPARCC Communications Manager Cherie Heasley said. 

The shelter can hold 20 animals. A recent donation along with help from Lowe's brought much-needed improvements including new kennels, a water system, and an updated ventilation system. 

"I think it's something that's catching on because they see how important it is because they are so attached to their pets and they want their pets to be safe," said Nickie Hartsock. 

Director of outreach, Nickie Hartsock said they want to provide safety for owners and their pets, while creating a sense of ease. 

"It is definitely something therapeutic for them to have their pet. It's like their family member. I think it's someone that they can sit with calm, keeps them calm, helps them when they're sad," said Hartsock. 

Last year, SPARCC housed 20 pets as their owners got the chance to create a new start for their whole family. 

"We've had turtles, cats, dogs, rabbits. We get many sizes and many animals. We take them all," said Hartsock. 

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