In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the inaugural “Paws for Peace” event will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at the U.S. Oval in Plattsburgh.

The event, which is being organized by Behavioral Health Services North’s program STOP Domestic Violence, will bring awareness to the impact of domestic abuse of both pets and their owners.

“Paws for Peace” has been held in Orlando for the past four years and is the first of its kind in the Clinton County area. People are invited to come and bring their dogs to walk to the end the abuse.

Last May, STOP Domestic Violence, along with the North Country SPCA, came up with the idea to have an event where pet owners and their pets could go for a casual walk while learning about domestic abuse through literature.

“It’s a nice organization that was willing to help,” said Susan Kelley, program director for Behavioral Health Services North and Plattsburgh State alumna. Kelley said the two groups have worked together for several years and wanted to plan an event together.

Kelley said domestic violence sometimes leads to the abuse of animals as they can be easy targets for abusers to further impose their will on its victims.

“Some people think of their pets as their babies — some just think it’s just another animal,” she said.

Arielle Trombley, STOP’s coordinator of children services, said pets are often forgotten victims of domestic violence and that victims of abuse sometimes don’t get out of their unhealthy situations or are too afraid to get help because they will have to leave their pet behind.

“Abusers use pets as a tactic to control their victims,” Trombley said. “So they might threaten or actually harm the animal to get what they want.”

According to a study done by the American Humane Association, 71 percent of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their abuser had injured, killed or threatened family pets for revenge and to psychologically control victims.

Trombley said animals are voiceless victims who can’t defend themselves, which is one of the reasons they decided to do an event like this.

In addition to hosting the walk, the BHSN held a fundraiser last month to raise money to help provide shelter for humans and pets.

Later this month, the BHSN will hold a candlelight vigil in Malone, which is also part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. They also plan to hold an on-campus event called “In Her Shoes” in the near future.

People are also encouraged to wear purple in support of the walk, and the first 36 participants to arrive will receive a free bandana for their pet.

Email David Luces at david.luces@cardinalpointsonline.com.

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