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Most domestic abuse shelters don't accept pets, leaving women with a hard choice to make.

Too many women are having to choose between their safety and their pets.

Most domestic abuse shelters don't accept pets, leaving women with a hard choice to make.

Heather Gamble knew she had to leave home for her own safety when her then-boyfriend became violent. But abandoning her pets — that was an impossible decision.

‌“By the time I was thinking about leaving, my dog was nearly 2 years old, and at that point, it was a bond like what parents have with children," she says. "Pets can sort of take that place in your heart and life.”

Heather and her dog, Nala. Photos courtesy of Heather Gamble.


Loved ones tried to convince her to leave her dog and two cats at an animal shelter. But those animals had been by her side as she endured physical and verbal abuse. During one particular argument, Gamble says her abuser kicked her dog Nala. These animals were family and couldn't be left behind.

Luckily, a local women’s shelter had just received a grant that allowed women and their animals to stay there. Gamble and her pets moved in immediately.

But not everyone has access to an animal-friendly shelter the way Gamble did.

In fact, it's estimated that fewer than 5% of domestic violence shelters allow pets.

Many women in situations of domestic violence are unwilling to leave their beloved animals behind. Studies have shown that 48% of domestic violence victims delay leaving abusive relationships in part due to concern for their pets' welfare.

When Jen Rice — a rescue-cat owner and founder of the domestic violence charity My Cat Kyle — learned this, she knew she needed to do something about it.

Rice adopted her cat Kyle in 2010. When she learned he was rescued from an abusive home, she did some digging online about women and their animals in domestic violence situations.

Photo courtesy of Jen Rice.

She was shocked that resources weren't available for women and their pets. "As a pet owner, I empathized. While I've personally never been in such a situation, I could relate because Kyle is like my child. I had to do something about it," Rice says.

Kyle and his mustachioed good cause have become somewhat of an internet sensation.

Photo courtesy of Jen Rice.

Thanks to Kyle's celebrity, Rice raises money by selling My Cat Kyle swag and accepts donations for organizations like URINYC and Red Rover, which tackle the process of untangling the red tape associated with bringing pets on site at domestic abuse shelters.

The goal is to make more women’s shelters animal-friendly.

This work is important because on top of the emotional attachment they feel toward their pet, women often experience fear and guilt at the thought of leaving an animal with their abuser.

“Many people who are in domestic violence situations report that their abuser has threatened, injured, or killed their pet," Rice explains. "So not only are you separated, but you're putting your pet in danger. It's like condemning your pet to death."

Further, Rice says, when pets are left behind, they're used as a tool of emotional distress to manipulate victims into coming back.

Rice's quest goes beyond simply helping a woman leave an abusive relationship. It extends into the recovery process too.

"The reality is an animal's presence is very therapeutic," says Rice. Allowing a survivor of domestic abuse to keep their pet in shelter reduces the chances of returning to the dangerous situation and also releases the woman from further ties or control that the abuser may have over them.  

There are enough barriers in the way of an escape route from an abusive relationship. With the help of donations to places like My Cat Kyle, Rice hopes to remove some of the fear women have in leaving violent situations and to help clear the way for those hurting in silence.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."