CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK)—One of the missions of the Charleston YWCA is to provide a safe place for people fleeing domestic violence. In 2020 they became the first pet-friendly domestic violence shelter in West Virginia. Since then the program has grown.

“When you hear someone say they would rather live under a bridge than to lose their animal that means a lot,” said Brandi Reese, Victim Shelter Service Coordinator at the YWCA.

Through her work with domestic violence survivors, Reese talks to people looking for a way out of abusive situations. But sometimes the person on the other end of the line is reluctant to leave because they don’t want to leave their pets behind. But thanks to an $80,000 grant they have spaces available for people who need to bring their pets along.

“The pet apartments have a television, toys, they have a little doggie door where they can go out and play,” she described. Pet-friendly rooms allow animals and their people to escape together.

“In our screening process we ask ‘do you have any pets’ get their information like what dog or cat food they like and set up their little apartment for them,” Reese said.

The YWCA also partners with a local vet to get the pets spayed or neutered for free and to make sure they are vaccinated and microchipped.

“A lot of times whenever they are with their abuser they were never allowed to go get proper veterinary care and we are able to do that,” she said.

It gives both people and their pets a chance to start a better life.

“I love it because you see them grow,” Reese said. “I mean it is really awesome to walk out to the pet shelter and look in and see them interacting like they are at home but without the abuse.”

The YWCA’s annual Girl’s Night Out Fundraiser is coming up August 13th. Money raised at the event helps support the YWCA’s programs. For more information on the event and how to get tickets click here.