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CHOICES helps domestic violence survivors, and their pets, with fresh start

There is a building within the city limits of Columbus that houses people and their pets who need out of a bad situation.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — There is a building within the city limits of Columbus.

 It’s a building that 10TV cannot tell you the location because of safety.

It’s a building that houses people. People who need out of a bad situation. People needing a new start. People who need their pets.

“A pet is a part of the family and you want your whole family safe,” Sue Villilo said.

Villilo is with LSS CHOICES. It’s an organization that specializes in helping get domestic violence victims and their families into shelters. 

She says research shows 89% of pets are harmed by the same household abuser. At least 50% of victims say they don’t leave their abuser because of their pet and 25% of those who do leave return fearing their pet will be hurt or killed.

Here's another statistic: 3%,

“Yes, it is,” Villilo said. “It’s a little bit sad, actually.”

The National Network to End Domestic Violence lists 1,870 domestic violence programs in the country. Of that, Villilo says only 3%, or about 60 programs, offer safe havens for pets.

Last year the shelter in Columbus housed 55 families and 68 pets.

“Everything,” Brittany Williams said. “We see everything.”

Williams is with the Columbus Humane Society. It staffs the shelter’s kennel seven days a week year-round. She says the majority of the animals they see are dogs, cats and pocket pets, such as ferrets, rabbits, birds and guinea pigs.

“Pets love you no matter what,” Williams said. “They don’t judge you. They’re happy. They’re accepting. They’re always there for you.”

The service at the shelter is free to clients and includes boarding, medical, vaccinations, as well as spay and neuter and microchip options. And, knowing pets will be safe, Villilo hopes more people needing a fresh start won’t hesitate.

“That’s exactly our hope with having this on site is that people will say here’s one reason that I maybe wouldn’t have left that I now can leave because I know my pet’s going to be safe, too,” Villilo said.

If you would like to contact CHOICES, it has a 24-hour crisis hotline. The number is 614-224-4663

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