FORT WALTON BEACH— Shelter House has added a kennel to its offerings for domestic violence victims in Okaloosa and Walton counties. The kennel will house, feed and provide veterinary services for the pets of the more than 400 women, children and men who stay at the shelter annually. People can now bring their pets with them when leaving a violent home.


FORT WALTON BEACH— Shelter House has added a kennel to its offerings for domestic violence victims in Okaloosa and Walton counties. The kennel will house, feed and provide veterinary services for the pets of the more than 400 women, children and men who stay at the shelter annually.  People can now bring their pets with them when leaving a violent home.



A ribbon cutting ceremony was Oct. 7 for the Kind Heart Kennel at the organization's confidential emergency shelter. that will allow abuse victims to bring their pets with them when leaving a violent home. With the opening of the Kind Heart Kennel, Shelter House becomes the only center in Northwest Florida and one of only a few in the entire state to provide this service.



Some studies show that close to 50 percent of abused women stayed in relationships because they could not take their pet with them to a shelter, and 68 percent of battered women report violence toward their pets.



“No one should have to choose between their own safety and the safety of a beloved pet,” Shelter House Executive Director Michelle Sperzel said.



“When we were first considering adding a kennel to our shelter, one of our residents was on the phone with her abuser as he shot and killed one of her dogs. Statistics are one thing, but seeing that loss first-hand was heartbreaking for all of us. The addition of the Kind Heart Kennel to our shelter removes another barrier.”



The kennel encompasses a heated and cooled dog kennel and dog run in the shelter’s backyard, an indoor cat room and pet-friendly bedrooms within the shelter, equipped with HEPA filters for residents with pocket pets such as hamsters. Having all of this on-site allows pet owners to see their pets whenever they want and provides much needed comfort during a stressful time.



Many organizations and businesses contributed to this important new resource for our community. Shelter House has partnered with the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society to provide vaccinations and to foster animals that cannot be accommodated at the shelter.



Restylers donated installation of Rhino Lining floors in the kennel and cat room, and H.E.A.R.T Animal Rescue, Furry Fanatics and 3 Dogs & a Chick have also come on board as supporters.



Harbor House, the domestic violence center in Orlando, provided invaluable resources and insights from their experience adding a kennel to their shelter.



Start-up funding for the Kind Heart Kennel came from grants by the Dugas Family Foundation, American Kennel Club and Red Rover. Donations to sustain the kennel are needed, particularly in-kind veterinary and grooming services.



The kennel will also need a steady supply of pet food, food and water bowls, treats, kitty litter, litter boxes, litter scoops, leashes, harnesses, leads, collars, ID tags, bedding, toys, pet medication and vitamins, flea and tick medication, brushes and combs, shampoo and nail clippers.



Donations are accepted between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, at the Shelter House administrative office, 102 Buck Drive, Fort Walton Beach. Monetary donations can be made at www.shelterhousenwfl.org. For more information call 243-1201.