Lowe's stores help freshen up facility.
In moments of crisis, even pets need a safe place to go. Since 2014, the Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center has provided a space for pets to stay at its emergency shelter. The shelter houses survivors of domestic abuse, and its pet kennel allows them to bring along their pet. Most of the pets are dogs and cats, but the kennel has also hosted rabbits, ferrets, turtles and hamsters.
The kennel, called Mic and Mac’s Playhouse, was originally built with funding from Mary Ann Robinson, a SPARCC board member emeritus whose dogs the kennel is named after.
The pet kennel has now received a much-needed upgrade through the generosity of volunteers from two local Lowe’s Home Improvement stores. The initiative was a part of the stores’ Lowes Heroes Project, a program that encourages Lowe’s employees to get involved with a local nonprofit in order to make a difference.
“It’s extremely difficult if you need to get out of a bad situation and also need to leave with your pet,” said Lowe’s Central Sarasota Parkway Store Manager Ray Brose. “That really resonated with our employees, so we wanted to help make it as easy as possible for those in that dilemma.”
Employees from the Lowe’s Central Sarasota Parkway and Fruitville Road stores spent almost a week at the end of October volunteering to make improvements to the pet kennel and its outdoor area.
“It was really an uplifting and humbling experience,” said Lowe’s Fruitville Road Store Human Resources Manager Leslie Heller. “We were overwhelmed by the gratefulness of the survivors and inspired by their resilience.”
The renovations included new furniture, updating the ventilation system, installing new floors and building a trench so that the outdoor area would have access to water. Lowe’s provided the materials to make the project possible. SPARCC board member Diane Muldoon and her husband, Tim, also donated funds for new kennels and crates.
“When we first built the pet shelter, we didn’t realize the scope of this need,” said SPARCC CEO & President Jessica Hays. “It’s been really important for our survivors to have a place where they know their pets are safe. We can also provide veterinary care and food. It’s one less thing for them to stress over.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 48% of domestic violence victims choose to remain in an abusive situation rather than leave without their pets and 71% of victims said their abuser threatened, harmed or killed their pet.
Hays said SPARCC was one of the few emergency shelters across the state to offer a pet kennel, but a growing number of shelters are now offering a safe haven for survivors and their animals.
“A lot of people aren’t aware of this issue,” said Hays. “Survivors view their pets as part of their family. They provide emotional support, especially during difficult times. We want them to feel safe as well as have the comfort of their pet nearby.”
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