Local pet kennel comes to aid of victims of abuse and their pets | SteamboatToday.com

Local pet kennel comes to aid of victims of abuse and their pets

The RK Pet Ranch has been caring for dogs and cats since 2005.
Photo courtesy of RK Pet Ranch

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Recently, social media users watched in horror after Louisiana police released a doorbell video showing a man choking his ex-girlfriend’s dog and holding it hostage after she refused to see him.

It’s scenes like this that has Advocates of Routt County teaming up with a local pet boarding facility to make sure victims have one less reason to stay with their abuser.

“We’ve had victims refuse to come to our shelter, because they couldn’t trust that their pets would be safe without their protection,” said Milena Munar, victims advocate and shelter manager.

That’s why Advocates, a nonprofit support group for victims of sexual and domestic abuse, asked RK Pet Ranch if they would help abuse victims who are scared to leave their pets behind.

Kennel owners TJ Appenzeller and husband, Lonnie Castelli, discussed the proposal and decided the partnership was a no-brainer. 

“Having worked in the mental health insurance industry for 20 years, I feel very strongly about victims’ rights and abuse,” Appenzeller said. “Owning the pet boarding facility and being able to help Advocates solves for the social determinant that may prevent an abuse victim from seeking shelter.”

RK Pet Ranch is a boarding and daycare facility for dogs and cats located outside of Steamboat Springs. It has operated for 15 years; Castelli and Appenzeller have owned it for the last year and a half.

At a time when victims of domestic abuse are more vulnerable than ever under a pandemic lockdown, Munar believes RK’s quick answer will give victims one less problem to worry about.

 “This collaboration between our agencies will provide a humane alternative for boarding animals while their owners get support and are relocated,” Munar said.

RK’s owners have been working on logistics that would ensure the privacy of clients fleeing abuse, while maintaining the safety of the animals.

“Helping our community and its pets is part of our mission statement at the RK Pet Ranch, so we’re happy to help,” Appenzeller said. “It’s a win-win for the victim and pets.”

Advocates “Safe Line” is open 24/7 every day of the year at 970-879-8888 or at safeline@advocatesrc.org.

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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