Nevada has consistently been ranked one of the states with the most domestic violence against women. Sadly, many don't leave their homes to seek help because they're afraid of leaving their animals behind with their abuser. Now, a local shelter has found a way to help by creating the first shelter pet kennel in Northern Nevada.

Safe Embrace, a group that advocates against domestic violence is now providing a safe place for pets to stay when their owners flee from their abusers. We talked with Executive Director, John Etchemendy, who says construction for the facility was finished last weekend. It can house up to a dozen dogs and cats in multiple spaces.

Every year Safe Embrace receives nearly 1,000 calls through their Crisis Hotline. The reason Safe Embrace decided to build a pet facility is because last year 30 people had called with multiple pets and elected not to come into a shelter because they didn't want to leave their animals behind. It's a trend seen around the world in domestic violence cases. "People don't leave if they have to abandon their pets and people who are in abusive relationships. Their abusers tend to either abuse the pet or threaten to abuse the pets as a means of controlling the survivor,” said Etchemendy.

Etchemendy has made it his life goal to help victims of domestic violence. He's been the executive director of safe embrace for about a year. Since services started in 1994, they've kept track of some major milestones. Adding a new pet facility has marked one more, this month. “We're very excited,” said Etchemendy.

On Friday we got a glimpse of the new place. It's fully stocked with three enclosures to take care of big and little dogs and a climate controlled place for cats. Putting in a pet facility is part of an effort to encourage women to leave a dangerous situation. "The goal is to really make sure that we can accommodate everyone. So that every survivor in our community is comfortable with making the call in asking for shelter, that's tough enough already,” said Etchemendy.

It cost tens of thousands of dollars to make it happen with most of the funding coming from Red Rover, a group based out of Sacramento. "They reach out to domestic violence shelters all over. They offer funds to complete projects just like this,” said Etchemendy. More than 50 local volunteers also helped put in nearly 400 labor hours for the past 11 weekends to get everything ready. “We have felt the love from the community,” said Etchemendy. Groups who helped out were Pets of the Homeless in Carson City, Western Nevada Supply provided the heating and cooling, Lowe's also gave discounted materials. Sierra Nevada Job Corps, D & D Roofing and Union 657 also helped with the construction efforts.

After seeing the finished product, residents in the shelter became very excited. "They're in amazement and more than anything the kids. I think they just want the pets to come in. I think honestly once we have that in place, when the woman are here and then somebody has a pet that can almost be just as healing for the women here as it is for the person who brought the pet,” said Housing Advocate, Daysi Rodriguez.

In 2014 Safe Embrace helped provide 7,039 safe bed nights to more than 200 women, children and men. They also help thousands of other victims through counseling and other programs.

With this new addition, Safe Embrace is hopeful they will be able to help more people. "They shouldn't have to make the decision to abandon an animal with an abuser. They shouldn't have to make that decision. Now they have a place to go,” said Etchemendy.

With the new pet facility, Safe Embrace is also looking for donations to help feed the pets and items like washable cat and dog beds. A large scratching post for cats to climb on in the feline room is also needed. Staff members are also hoping to expand and provide more space for other animals. They are currently seeking both a new or used reptile cage and bird cage to house more pets.

To get in contact with Safe Embrace to donate, click here: