Space for pets added at Norman Women's Resource Center

The ribbon was cut on a new area to include pets to be brought in at the Women's Resource Center in Norman. (KOKH/Will Maetzold)

The Women's Resource Center in Norman has had to turn away 43 women last year because there was no place for their pets.

Assistant executive director of the center Courtney Foster said they recognized the importance of the pets to the clients they serve and decided to build a place for them.

"I think we will see an increase in the people we can provide shelter for," Foster said. "Because now they can bring pets in, they can bring their cats and their dogs knowing that they're safe with them."

Along with donations from the Pet Food Pantry and the Wilshire Foundation the center cut the ribbon on the pet area, called Daisy's Place, on Tuesday. It's a fenced-in area with room for pets to run and play.

"I think it'll be an adjustment," Foster said. "Thankfully it's temporary for them and not a permanent place. It'll be an adjustment but we're hoping to make them safe and happy while they're here."

The reality for victims of domestic violence is their pets can often be at risk. Staff said abusers can often harm or even kill pets.

Emily Nicholls is one of the victim advocates at the center and has also rescued pets.

"I know quite a few people who are able to help from an animal side and then a lot of people who have experienced a similar kind of thing," Nicholls said. "I know animals are really important so I'm glad to be helping them in this way."

She said she hopes this can provide a blueprint for other shelters to follow.

"We're hoping to use this as a model because they're hoping to do this at more domestic violence shelters around the state," Nicholls said.

The shelter has room for two families' pets to begin with but there are more community partners involved where pets can be taken. The pet area could be expanded to add more in the future.

Other places that have started building or are looking at putting in space for pets include the YWCA, Stillwater and Durant.

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