Women's shelter makes room for pets, too

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They're an easy and silent target of abusers. Pets become victims, too, when abusers are trying to gain ultimate control of their victim.

Domestic violence shelters take women and children, but they don't take animals.

But that's changing, thanks to a foster pet program at the Beacon of Hope Center for Women, a center that's served victims of domestic violence for the past five years.

The center's co-founder and executive director Terry Moore has been there. She was in an abusive marriage some 30 years ago.

"I thought I had met Prince Charming and three months into our marriage, I realized he had been keeping a very deep, dark secret," explained Moore. "My life changed instantly overnight and after the secret was out, he started abusing me and punching me and kicking me and threatening to kill my cat if I didn't act right."

Thankfully, Moore and her cat, Misty, had family to help them, a place to go where it was okay for Moore to bring her beloved pet with her. That's not always the case, though, for others in relationships where domestic violence is present.

"One of the leading reasons women don't leave their abusive situation is they do not want to leave their family pets behind," said Moore.

Thank to the Beacon Hope's Foster Pet Program, they haven't had to for the past two years.

"Pets are innocent. Innocent creatures and, just like the children, they do not need to be in this crossfire," said Moore.

The pet foster program has made it possible for pets to escape violent situations, too.

"We have served dogs and cats and gerbils. We have had a call for a goldfish," said Moore. "We've been very fortunate, we never had to turn an animal away."

The need is there more now than ever.

"We just had a call a couple weeks ago, where an abuser was making the victim's dog drink bleach in order to kill it," Moore explained.

That's just one of the stories Moore and center volunteers are trying to prevent.

"What goes through the women's mind is, 'Will I ever see my animal again?'" said Moore.

The answer at this center is "yes," but the foster pet program needs more foster families and money.

That's why its hosting a first ever "Bow Wow Luau" to raise money. A 5k race, family festival and pet walk takes place on June 21 at Leonard Park in Speedway. Registration begins at 7 a.m. and the race starts at 9 a.m.

The walk will be followed by music, a dog swimsuit competition and pet-related and food vendors.