Proposed shelter would house people, pets

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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For details on how to volunteer or donate to Helping Animals, Victims & Elderly (HAVEN), call 360-719-5850.

Two local groups want to build a domestic violence shelter that would accept people and their pets. It would also board pets of elderly people in crisis.

Pets of Older People, known by the acronym POOP — part of Friends of the Clark County Elder Justice Center — recently created a free service to coordinate emergency boarding and foster homes for pets of seniors who cannot care for them because of medical treatment or other emergencies.

Now the group has partnered with an animal shelter, Must Love Dogs Northwest, to found Helping Animals, Victims & Elderly in Need (HAVEN), the future name of the domestic violence shelter.

The shelter would help meet multiple needs in the community. In addition to keeping elderly people and their pets together — the mission of POOP — the shelter would provide a refuge for domestic violence victims

who might be turned away from the county's existing shelter due to lack of space, or who might not leave an abusive home because they don't want to abandon a pet. The county's only domestic violence shelter, YWCA Clark County, doesn't accept pets.

"This is a beautiful thing because it affects people across the spectrum: children, elderly and pets," said Vicki Scheel of POOP.

YWCA Clark County also can't meet all of the need in the community, said Pat Jollota, another POOP member.

The YWCA shelter has 32 beds and served 132 people between October 2011 and September 2012, said Sharon Svec, a YWCA spokeswoman. Meanwhile, YWCA Clark County's domestic violence hotline received nearly 13,000 calls during the same period.

HAVEN would help fill some of that gap.

Organizers envision a 20-bed shelter with enough space to have an equal number of pets. They are talking to the Banfield Charitable Trust about applying for a grant to pay for the shelter's operations.

Dan Lesieur of Black Rhino Construction plans to donate his services as project manager for construction.

But the group will need money to buy materials for construction and to hire subcontractors, Lesieur said.

HAVEN organizers plan to kick off a capital campaign Jan. 23 through social media and presentations to community groups, said Dianna Kretzschmar, a POOP member.

Scheel said that domestic violence victims and elderly people in crisis have a commonality that fits in with POOP's mission: many often won't seek help because they don't want to leave a pet behind.

"If a woman calls the YWCA and they tell her they can't accept the pet, she may decide not to go," Jollota said.

Domestic violence victims sometimes "won't leave because that animal becomes terribly important to them as a source of non-abuse," Scheel said.

Harry Furlong, 75, of Battle Ground said he can empathize with how they feel. Furlong isn't a victim of abuse, but he has received assistance from POOP. POOP has boarded Furlong's 19-year-old dog, Maggie, free of charge in the Safe Haven Foster Program through the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, while Furlong recovers from a quadruple bypass surgery at Woodland Care Center.

"She means everything to me," Furlong said.

Candy Haas, administrator at Woodland Care Center, said boarding a pet can be unaffordable for elderly people. She said POOP's service is invaluable to her patients. Some of the residents at the care center have said they would like to get involved in raising money for the new shelter.

"That really hits home with them," Haas said. "There are plenty of seniors who can relate very well to what it's like when they didn't have anyone to care for their most precious possession, their pet."

The Elder Justice Center was founded in May 2011 in the Clark County Prosecutor's Office to prosecute cases of elder abuse investigated by Adult Protective Services.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts;http://facebook.com/ColTrends;paris.achen@columbian.com.