CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) The YWCA is in the midst of their first-ever, week-long virtual event campaign! The annual ‘girls night out’ event is now a ‘girls night in’ fundraiser.

While COVID-19 has forced them to cancel their in-person event this year, the purpose behind their party is more important than ever helping victims of domestic abuse become survivors.

13 News anchor Jennifer Abney is excited to share with you an exclusive look of their newest project that’s the first of its kind in West Virginia. 

It’s a situation no one wants to imagine themselves or other family members in, being abused by a loved one. 

“We realized that abuse in the home doesn’t just happen to people,” exclaimed Julie Haden, Program Director, Resolve Family Abuse Program. “Pets are just as vulnerable and they are used by abusers as another way to gain control.”  

For the past year, Julie Haden with the YWCA’s Resolve Family Abuse Program has worked to find a solution allowing them to provide help and safety for every member of the family. 

“About 20% of the people who call our hotline have pets,” Haden said. “It’s so important to know that they don’t have to leave their best friend at home.”  

Until now, Haden and her staff could only offer a foster home for pets of an abuse victim. But then she heard about an organization called Red Rover. She was approved for one of the grants and the project took off. 

“50% of domestic violence victims will delay leaving because of their pets and one of our missions at RedRover is to bring people and pets from crisis to care,” stated Katie Campbell, Outreach Manager, RedRover.  

Red Rover helps animals rescued from disasters or neglect along with domestic violence victims seeking safety. And in this case, it’s taking the form of a cottage inspired shelter.  

“We have two buildings that are being constructed,” Campbell said. “There will be spaces for dogs or cats where they can be safe. There will also be a living component to it so folks can have some nice quality time together.”  

Red Rover teams up with Rescue Rebuild to create these pet friendly spaces for families in crisis.  

“In addition to wanting the pet to feel like it’s in its home, but also for the pet parents to be able to go out there and spend time we have a tv out there so they can just pop in a movie and spend a couple of hours snuggling on the couch with their pet,” said Bryn Donnelly, Program Director, Rescue Rebuild, Greater Good.   

These three women all agree that the therapeutic and emotional impact of having your furry family members nearby is priceless, especially for victims of abuse.    

“When you think about when you’ve had a bad day, you come home and the first thing you want to do is grab your dog and give it a big hug,” Donnelly said. “Imagine when you’ve had more than a bad day, you’ve had a bad couple of months or years, it’s just amazingly helpful to have that pet to hug.” 

The new pet shelters will be complete by the end of the month but we did get a sneak peek of what the finished project will look like. So what about the price tag for it all? Well this gave Haden something else to celebrate.  

“The stars just aligned for us to have this opportunity to add this pet shelter and it is 100% funded and it’s so perfect that it came together the same week that we are doing Girls Night In,” Haden said. “We haven’t had a lot of wins in 2020.”