Courage Connection teams up with animal clinic to help those with pets

Courage Connection teams up with animal clinic to help those with pets

CHAMPAIGN — When victims of abuse are told to get out of their situations, it can be hard to find suitable homes for their pets. One woman's ordeal inspired a partnership among local agencies to solve this problem.

"She did not want to leave her companion cat," said Michael Ujcich, vice president of Courage Connection. "Her choice would have been to remain on the street, as the cat would not have been normally accepted into the shelter setting."

So Courage Connection, a shelter that provides housing and services to victims of domestic violence, worked with Loving Paws Pet Clinic to provide an option for clients who have pets for the first time in the agency's 33-year history.

Ujchich said Courage Connection President Eric Ray reached out to Ellen Kuchenbrod, owner of the animal clinic, after his client was left with no choice but to remain homeless if her cat was banned from the shelter.

"After Eric contacted us, we looked at all the different ramifications and decided we really wanted to do it," Kuchenbrod said. "I feel strongly about giving back to the community and wanted to help Courage Connection in any way possible."

The owner said the clinic will provide free housing for animals under 40 pounds as well as an initial exam. In addition, veterinary care will be offered at a reduced rate while the individuals seek services to achieve safety, stability and self-sufficiency, she said.

"In some situations, the perpetrator can take action to the pet, and that can be very scary for someone undergoing an already traumatic experience," Ujchich said. "Maybe the cat or dog is the only thing in their life at the moment.

"We want to make sure we take care of something they're concerned about."

Ujchich said Courage Connection can offer this unique option so victims of domestic abuse can leave a situation without worrying about their pet. One woman's needs may have opened doors for more in the future, he said.

"The opportunity to have her cat in a safe place was a small, however, vital victory for her," he said. "The two are now reunited as she rebuilds her life."

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