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Life is Better with Pets #LetsLiveBig

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This post recounting my trip to Better with Pets Summit was sponsored by Purina. I’m a Tidy Insider, a member of the influencer group focusing on Tidy Cats litter, but, as always, I only bring you topics that I think will be of interest to you. All opinions and statements are entirely my own.

Imagine life in an abusive relationship. Day after day, the threat of abuse looms–not only for yourself and your two legged family members–but also for your four-legged family. One day, for your safety and that of your family, you know you must escape your abuser.

But, if you are a woman contemplating assistance in many domestic violence shelters, you may be faced with the heartbreaking decision of staying in a dangerous situation or escaping to a protective shelter but leaving your beloved pet at the hands of your abuser. Many shelters do not accept animals.

For 40% of women, the answer is that they choose to risk their lives rather than to abandon their pet in exchange for their own safety.

This situation was the subject of a discussion at this week’s Better with Pets Summit. Sponsored by Purina, the event brought in experts from across the pet-loving spectrum, from behaviorists and nutritionists to veterinarians and experts like Nathaniel Fields, President and CEO of the Urban Resource Institute, one of the largest domestic violence shelters in New York. Today this is the home of the pet-welcoming women’s shelter in New York City, an innovation brought about with Purina’s participation. The shelter offers kennels for pets as their human family recovers. Protected areas provide a place for women to walk their dogs and enjoy the human-animal bond that’s especially vital in times of healing.

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Attendees assembled welcome boxes for dog and cat families who check into the pet-friendly New York City domestic violence shelter.

The move to ensure that domestic violence shelters are pet-welcoming is ongoing. When it comes to determining which family members– two- or four-legged–can be admitted to a shelter, “The future is for this artificial line between pets and people to be removed,” explained Fields.

One step in that direction is the effort to pass the Pet and Women’s Safety Act, a bill that, if passed, would provide additional protections, such as including pets as part of the orders of protection.

Innovation: Dogs Helping Fibromyalgia Patients

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With a theme of “Let’s Live Big,” this year’s Better with Pets Summit provided more examples of many big plans that are underway, including research into the ways that pets can assist hospital patients. Dr. Brent Bauer, Research Director, Integrative Medicine and Health Program at the Mayo Clinic, spoke of a study in fibromyalgia. The new study will help determine the impact of dogs as part of human care. The study will help assess not only the impact of dogs on the fibromyalgia patient but also the effect on the dogs–are the canines receiving something positive from the therapy as well?

Innovation: Pets Visiting Hospital Patients

Along with the study of therapy dogs on hospital patients, a Better with Pets panel discussed the effect of visits with a patient’s own family pets. Recently the St. Louis Children’s Hospital added the Purina Family Pet Center, a facility that provides a place for hospitalized children to visit with their pets. A mother whose daughter has been hospitalized for 28 surgeries spoke about the joy that pet visits can bring a child as she heals.

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Other innovations discussed during the full-day event included specialty foods for senior pets, safety and quality standards, veterinary diets, and research into genetics as related to specialty diets.

Innovation: Petfinder

Of course, my favorite innovations came in the area of pet rescue. As Petfinder celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, we feel a special bond to this celebratory year since a Petfinder search brought us to our new kitten, Ochi. With over 25 million adoptions since its launch, there’s no doubt that Petfinder has changed the way the public is exposed to all the great adoptable pets looking for forever homes.

North Shore Animal League also presented at the event (and brought adoptable dogs and cats!), discussing the one million adoptions they’ve witnessed since opening. As Joanne Yohannan, Senior VP of Operations, explained, “Life is better with pets–all pets–and that includes homeless animals.”

I think Petfinder has had a hugely positive impact on the lives of pets–and pet lovers. The past 20 years have shown that change is definitely possible in animal rescue and that #LetsLiveBig isn’t just a dream but a reality.

How have pets allowed you to live a bigger life together? Please use the #LetsLiveBig hashtag to share your story on your favorite social media channels!

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