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Unleashing Hope: The Quest to Protect Survivors and Their Pets

Orazie Cook

Dr. Orazie Cook

Dr. Orazie Cook holds advanced degrees in public health and has dedicated her career to addressing significant public health challenges. With an extensive background in public health, Orazie recognizes the profound implications domestic violence has on individual and community health, particularly when pets are involved. Driven by her passion for creating safe and nurturing environments, she founded Praline’s Backyard Foundation to directly address the barriers faced by domestic violence survivors with pets. Drawing from her rich experiences and fueled by a deep compassion, Orazie is at the forefront of raising awareness and effecting change, ensuring both humans and animals can find safety and love away from abusive environments. Orazie is a dedicated advocate for domestic violence survivors and their beloved pets. With a passion for creating safe and loving environments for both humans and animals, she established Praline’s Backyard Foundation with the goal of breaking barriers faced by survivors with pets. Driven by her own experiences and fueled by compassion, Orazie leads the charge in raising awareness about the challenges survivors encounter when seeking safe housing for their pets. Through her dynamic leadership, Praline’s Backyard Foundation has become a beacon of hope for countless families and their beloved pets.Pralines Backyard Foundation

Every soul, whether human or animal, seeks comfort, love, and a sense of belonging. The mission of Praline’s Backyard Foundation is not just about assisting domestic violence survivors and their pets; it’s about restoring hope, rebuilding trust, and reinforcing the unbreakable bond between individuals and their beloved pets. For many survivors, their pets represent a beacon of hope, unconditional love, and a lifeline in their darkest moments. We urge you, as influential leaders and spiritual guides, to recognize and highlight the profound impact of this bond and the crucial need to support it. Our collective efforts can change narratives, heal wounds, and inspire communities to rally together. Let’s champion the cause of ensuring that no person has to choose between personal safety and the well-being of their pet. Your voice and influence can amplify this message, inspire action, and truly make a difference in the lives of many.

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0:01 – Hugh Ballou This is Hugh Ballou. We’re back for another, another exciting episode of The Nonprofit Exchange. We’re getting up to around 375, somewhere in there, which means I’ve interviewed a lot of people over the last eight and a half years and really interesting people, really passionate leaders who have a cause and are making a difference in the world. So I’m not gonna spoil it by giving you too much information, but I’m gonna call on my guests. And to introduce herself and talk about why she’s doing this work.

0:34 – Hugh Ballou Our, I’ll give you a hint, our title for the show today is Unleashing Hope, The Quest to Protect Survivors and Their Pets. Orazie, welcome to the Nonprofit Exchange and tell people a little bit about who you are and your background.

0:51 – Dr. Orazie Cook Thank you, Hugh. Glad to be here. My name is Dr. Orzee Cook. I have a 20-year career in public health. However, I’ve also, through my entire career, I’ve always volunteered, and I volunteered at my local domestic violence shelter here in Atlanta is where I live. And I was first, I was not first introduced to domestic violence, I have a lived experience about that, but I was first introduced to the idea that often survivors will go back to the environment where their abuser is to be with their pet, because they just were concerned about the safety of their pet, having left their pet with an abuser.

1:25 – Dr. Orazie Cook And in the case and often they wanted to just the assurance and the safety and the support of having their pet with them, or just knowing their pet was in a safer place than with their abuser. And so oftentimes a survivor would go back to be with their, to be in the home with their abuser. And I didn’t have the language or the resources to know how to address this issue, but I definitely recognized it as a barrier when I experienced this volunteer in domestic violence shelter. Later on from there, up until COVID, I volunteered at Humane Society, and during that same experience, I saw a different version of that.

1:57 – Dr. Orazie Cook I would have survivors come and relinquish ownership of their pet due to going into a living situation, they’re not allowed for pets, they do not accommodate pets, which is a responsible thing to do for a survivor. They’re moving into a housing situation, they necessarily don’t want to leave the pet with the abuser, but they want to give it to someone who can take care of their pet, and so they relinquish ownership. But the thing about that is, is not what they really want to do. They want their pet back, but they’re just in the unstable housing situation and they felt that’s what they have to do is give up ownership of their pet.

2:27 – Dr. Orazie Cook And so. Going into cobit also have a dog services business here in Atlanta. We do dog walks things of that nature, but I plan to move into having a physical building and as I had planned to continue the growth of my business, I knew that I wanted to house pets of domestic violence survivors. It didn’t happen that way, but I still had shared my vision with my cohort of clients and friends and family and someone suggested I get on social media and just tell people my plan. And I did, and I just didn’t even think of it.

2:56 – Dr. Orazie Cook I thought it was something I’m doing as part of my business, not as a nonprofit, but just as a branch of my level of service to my community was housing pets of domestic violence survivors, because I knew this was a barrier based upon my volunteer experience. And then, hence, I share my story. It resonated with a lot of people, people started supporting me, and then I decided to establish a nonprofit because I got all this feedback from people saying, oh, she established a nonprofit.

3:20 – Dr. Orazie Cook And I’m like, I just want to be, I just want to have a business that wants to do this level of community good. And so then I decided to establish a nonprofit to house pets and domestic violence survivors. Initially, that was supposed to be here in Atlanta, but that didn’t work out. But I decided to work on partnership with pet boarding facilities across the US and pet fosters across the US to house survivors anywhere in the US. So, if any survivor anywhere in the US is living in an abusive situation, they lack housing for their pet, we will pay for boarding at that boarding facility and with the long-term foster for the longer term for that survivor, taking away that barrier for survival, leaving an abuser, the lack of housing for their pet.

4:00 – Dr. Orazie Cook So that’s how it started for Lynn’s Backyard Foundation. Long story, sorry.

4:04 – Hugh Ballou No, no, it’s a good story and you’re certainly. Energized and passionate about your work. You only have to tell me I can tell that. So, I’m. Right fond of Atlanta, I grew up there and I have a daughter and granddaughter there. So I. My 1st leadership lessons in high school and college were at the foot of Dr Martin Luther King. And it was that was quite a quite an error to be alive and to be present. So, Atlanta offers lots of opportunities, but your. Your footprint is much bigger and your influence is much bigger.

4:38 – Hugh Ballou So, you covered a lot of topics in that short explanation. Let me just go back and highlight some things. So. Why don’t you talk about the unique bond between domestic violence survivors and their pets and why it’s so crucial to support this relationship during the healing process? Go a little more in depth about that.

5:00 – Dr. Orazie Cook Very good. I actually just posted something on social media today about that in terms of just like I have a I have a pet, my, my dog is Praline, Praline Pecan. And she provides emotional support to me. She provides comfort to me. She is an assurance to me. She’s like a stress reliever, just to hold your pet is relaxing. It’s known that pets will lower our blood pressure. So, imagine it’s just me, and I’m not going through an abusive relationship at this moment. However, so if you were going through an abusive relationship, and then you’re having that withdrawn from you, that emotional support, that comfort, that sense of security, then that really hinders your ability to heal from the trauma that you’ve experienced with this abuser.

5:38 – Dr. Orazie Cook So, a survivor, just like anyone going through a situation of drastic change, Your pet becomes your lifeline of assurance, comfort, love, support, all of those things. And so when a survivor is torn between, am I going to leave this abuser and leave my pet with this abuser? And then in cases where they actually, survivors do leave their pet with their abuser and they go into a shelter. Or another level of housing, their level of healing is delayed because they’re concerned about their pet.

6:09 – Dr. Orazie Cook So we want to make sure that a survivor has the ability to heal with the assurance that their pet is safe. And that healing is much better when they know their pet is safe.

6:20 – Hugh Ballou You know, when you look at the marketplace, I believe I’ve read many times that people spend way more money on their pets than they do their children. And in total, I guess more people have pets than they have children. I don’t know. Or maybe they just go overboard with spending money.

6:34 – Dr. Orazie Cook Yeah, definitely.

6:38 – Hugh Ballou So it’s, it’s, it’s a pretty big energy field that people are engaged with, but never I’m sure most people, ordinary people like me never give it a thought. You know, about all these dynamics you’re talking about, so it’s important work that you’re doing. So, many shelters do not accommodate pets. What challenges do domestic violence survivors face when deciding between personal safety and well-being of their beloved animals? Talk a little bit about that. That’s a challenge.

7:12 – Dr. Orazie Cook Yeah, less than 20% of domestic violence shelters in the US accommodate pets or make some accommodation or housing for pets. Accommodation means domestic violence shelter may work in partnership with an animal welfare agency, or they may actually house pets on site. But it’s important to recognize that, unfortunately, sometimes an abuser will use a pet, such as a dog, as a means of threatening for a survivor. So, you can’t necessarily have a shelter that house pets and a survivor who may have been traumatized by a dog because they’re surviving.

7:43 – Dr. Orazie Cook Sorry, their abuser used a dog as a means of control and as a, as a thing of fear, unfortunately. So that’s why that’s a really hard medium for shelters to really balance because they don’t want to reintroduce someone. To trauma in a shelter environment by housing pets as well. And so with the idea that, and there’s a goal now among the domestic violence and animal welfare space, is that shelters by twenty twenty five twenty five percent of domestic violence shelters will be pet friendly.

8:13 – Dr. Orazie Cook However, even with that goal by 2025, that shelters will be pet friendly, that still means 75% of them are not pet friendly. And it also means that is a big barrier for a survivor to leave an abuser is lack of housing for their pet. Because statistically, it says that 52% of survivors delay leaving an abuser due to lack of housing for their pet. So we can decrease those numbers and really let every survivor know and every person in the US know that if you’re leaving an abuse situation, there is accommodation for your pet via pet boarding facilities and pet fosters across the US via Praline’s Backyard Foundation and a number of other organizations that do similar work As we do, and so our goal is always it has been and will continue to be to educate 10M people on the barrier survivors experience that represents the 10M people that experience domestic violence each year in this country.

9:07 – Dr. Orazie Cook And those are documented cases. We recognize not everyone that experiences domestic violence is documented document in the legal system. So we wanted to educate 10M people and we do that by telling the story every day.

9:21 – Hugh Ballou Wow, you keep uncovering more things that I never knew about. So, I learned something every week. This is a quantum leap. So, all right, folks you’re listening to or watching the Nonprofit Exchange, you can find all the episodes at thethe Nonprofit Exchange. Org. Org. The Nonprofit Exchange. Org. A lott of great episodes. This one will be right at the top when you go there, if you go there now. But you might be listening to this a year from now, and you’ll maybe be pleased to go to the website, and we’re going to give you that in a minute, find out all the stuff that’s happened in that year, because this woman’s making it happen.

10:01 – Hugh Ballou So, Dr. Orizi Cook is our guest today. So, Emma, thinking about this stuff, Praline’s Backyard Foundation is the name of your nonprofit. It’s a unique model partnering with pet boarding facilities and fosters. Can you share some of the success stories that showcase the transformative impact of these partnerships, both survivors and their pets?

10:30 – Dr. Orazie Cook Definitely, thank you. So, 1 thing about I tell people every day that as you mentioned earlier, the pet industry is huge and it’s growing by billions every year. So, along those same lines, every day, a pet boarding facility has space to house a domestic violence survivor. And at the same time, a domestic violence survivor delays leaving an abuser due to lack of housing for their pet. So my idea and the premise of the foundation is to partner with pet boarding facilities to house a survivor’s pet, because they have open space and we have a need for a survivor’s pet to be housed, right?

11:04 – Dr. Orazie Cook So by bringing those two people that have a need together, the shelter has a need for the space to be filled, either by money or whatever. And then the domestic violence driver needs sheltering for their pet so they can leave their abuse situation. So that’s how we work in partnership, and any pet boarding facility in the US is eligible to be a partner with us. And they can provide, boarding facilities provide us shelter at free, reduced cost, or just at the cost, we’ll pay for it. And we’ll pay for it for seven days while we find a pet foster for the longer term.

11:38 – Dr. Orazie Cook And so a particular case that we have, Just I have, I have kept going soldiers reach out to me all the time saying, oh, can we be listed as an option in our community? Which is great. And in response to that, we’ll showcase that pat boy facility on our social media just because we want to build awareness and build community because it’s not just about pralines backyard foundation is about addressing the need in each of our communities across the US. I live in Atlanta. However, there’s domestic violence in every city, every small town in this country.

12:05 – Dr. Orazie Cook Additionally, along those same lines, particular case I can highlight is that we had a survivor in Florida. She had 2 cats and we worked in partnership with the pet waiting facility and I’m going blank on the name at the moment. And what happens when a survivor contacts us, we identify a pet boarding facility, or they identify one. They will take their pet to that boarding facility and we’ll make arrangements for a foster to pick up that pet from that pet boarding facility. This particular survivor, we connected her with a pet foster in her area.

12:39 – Dr. Orazie Cook And that particular foster was actually also worked at a cat rescue. And so she really understood the trauma that cats, or just pets in general, can experience coming out of abusive relationships. And so she was able to really help those cats adjust to this new environment temporarily where she housed them. Because I really stress, and I train our fosters in the sense of that, When you have a pet coming out of the situation, they may have trauma as well. It’s going to be a little skittish of new people.

13:08 – Dr. Orazie Cook They’re also away from their primary caretaker. And so there’s a moment of, there’s a level of adjustment. You have to be patient with this pet as they enter into your home. So this particular foster, because they had worked in pet rescue, they worked in cat rescue particularly, they were able to really help these cats, they flourished under her care. And then we were able to reunite those two cats with the survivor after a period of time. And we were able to do that because we had worked in partnership with the pet boarding facility and this pet foster.

13:36 – Dr. Orazie Cook And then when that pet foster took those cats back to the boarding facility, she also left a care package for that survivor, just letting her know, Different things about the cash, he left her a gift card just as a, just to help her because obviously she’s adjusting. And so it really was a thoughtful gesture on the on the part of that pet foster, but also talks about the importance of community. When we all work together to help each other in a community, it really builds up. It helps that foster.

14:01 – Dr. Orazie Cook Be able to provide assistance to someone in our community and she could see how it really helped. And that survivor was reassured that people really care about her and somebody didn’t even know her, went out of their way to care for her pets for up to 6 months. And they gave her a gift basket just as a way of helping her along. And so I think that I have numerous cases like that. This is 1 that happened most recently that it really just it just makes it so much how many hands make light work.

14:27 – Dr. Orazie Cook And we all play our part in addressing a need different needs in this country. We’re better for it as a community.

14:35 – Hugh Ballou Yay. Yay. Yay. So you’ve mentioned fosters. I want to make sure people are understanding the full depth of what you’re talking about. We’ve heard of foster care for teenagers. So just elaborate on what you’re saying, fosters for pets. Just a minute, please.

14:51 – Dr. Orazie Cook Okay, so someone can take, essentially adopt, temporarily adopt or foster a person’s pet for up to six months. That’s the longest period of time that we allow, not allow, but provide housing for a survivor’s pet. And at that six months mark, if not before, those pets go back to the survivor. That pet is not, you’re not adopting that pet, you’re not getting that pet forever. You’re just getting that pet for a period of time until that survivor is able to get back on their feet and be able to be reunited with their pet.

15:20 – Hugh Ballou Okay, I thought, so I just want to be clear if people have real for me with that that are listening. So, in your journey with the foundation, I’m going to. Explore this from a couple of a couple of different perspectives. So I want to what are the most some of the most significant barriers. In addressing the intersection of domestic violence and pet safety. And how is Praline’s Backyard Foundation innovatively overcoming those barriers? And when you talk about overcoming the barriers of that, Talk about your journey in starting this and leading this is certainly if you’ve learned some things and maybe everything you did wasn’t perfect from the start.

16:02 – Hugh Ballou So, to inspire others, I mean, you’ve gotten to a significant place. So share what you want to, but you’ve learned some things along the way yourself, but there’s 2 questions there. Does that make sense?

16:13 – Dr. Orazie Cook Yeah, I’m just writing them down so I can make sure I can hit both of them when you, as you say them. So, yes, that makes sense. I guess the barrier I have experienced, I’ll say, is really raising awareness. I think that education is probably the biggest barrier we all experience. And so, first, we know that there’s a need, right? But not everyone recognizes it. They don’t even know it. Like, when I’ve told people the story of what we do, people, I’m asking, oh, wow, that makes sense.

16:37 – Dr. Orazie Cook But they never thought about it. People think about children, think about other things. They don’t think about the fact that there are pets. Like, one in three households has a pet. And we know that one in two households has a pet, and one in three households are domestic. Violence occurs so it’s like, and that’s the rate, then we know that there are their pets involved, right? And so, and if a pet, do we leave a pet with an abuser? Do we leave a pet, and if that survivor takes the pet with them, what housing is available to them, right?

17:05 – Dr. Orazie Cook And so we know some hotels, some people have means for a hotel, some people have means with family and friends, but not all family and friends like pets. They may, like us, they may say like, they’re our pets. And so, and then it’s like, and then there’s shelters, as I mentioned earlier, less than 20% provide housing for pets. And so I think really education is a major barrier. And I think that, and also money. We cannot negate the importance of money because money provides housing, money provides advertising, money provides, helps raises awareness.

17:35 – Dr. Orazie Cook But we do have the benefit of social media in terms of it’s free in a sense. And it provides, we’re able to expand our voices that way. And I was able to do that through social media because I got on social media as a result of Prairie Leans Backyard Foundation. Initially, I was hesitant just because I’m not really A face, you couldn’t have told me 5 years ago, I would be on social media and that 1000 people know what I look like besides my family and friends. Like, I would never have.

17:58 – Dr. Orazie Cook Believe that no one ever said that. No, I would never do that. So that’s that’s definitely getting getting over myself knowing that this isn’t about me. This is not me helping somebody else. So seeing my face. Helps you make a decision to donate to volunteer to give to provide housing for a survivor set. That I don’t mind being the face of Freelance Backyard Foundation and being the face of domestic violence awareness and taking down the barriers of survivors with past experience.

18:21 – Dr. Orazie Cook I have no problem with that. Along those lines, you said, what did I, what have I learned in this space? I’ve learned to to just just to speak the truth and people will respond. I think that I really hesitate always to ask for money. I feel like people will hear this, people will hear the story and they’ll be resonated with that. They’ll resonate. Like when you go to church on Sunday or Saturday, when the pastor asks you to make a donation, people that are gonna give, they’re gonna give.

18:51 – Dr. Orazie Cook You don’t have to go start pleading. People do plead, but really, you know you’re gonna give, because I’m gonna give $1,000 today, I’m gonna give $1,000. No matter how many times you ask me, It’s not going to change. I’m going to give a dollar. I’m going to give a dollar. So it’s just that’s just how we are. But if someone compels you and you hear a story and it resonates with you, and you and you, and you believe in the pastor’s ministry, or you believe in the cause that you’re supporting, you will get it.

19:13 – Dr. Orazie Cook And so if anyone out there resonates with you, you understand the importance that pets play in any of our lives. Not because you’re a survivor of domestic violence or you know this person, but because you recognize the role that pets play in providing us emotional support, providing us comfort, really giving us love unconditionally, then you want to make sure that no survivor stays with an abuser who does not treat them in a loving way, who does not respect them as a person, and you want to make sure they don’t leave that pet with that person, then definitely support us providing housing, being a pet foster, volunteering.

19:47 – Dr. Orazie Cook I always tell people, You can like follow and share our content and it takes cost you nothing. It costs you like a 2nd of your time to help us raise awareness.

19:55 – Hugh Ballou Preach it preach it. All right, we got 5 minutes. I got 2 good questions left. So, let’s see if we can squeeze them both in the power of community. Is unmatched in driving change. How can individuals, businesses and other organizations get involved and support the mission. Of pralines backyard foundation.

20:20 – Dr. Orazie Cook Definitely. Well, like I said, you can also raise awareness to whatever your area of influence. We all have a realm of influence, whether or not you write books, whether or not you are a newscaster, whatever your area of influence is, you can help educate a person on the barriers survivors with PETS experience. Every day I aim to raise awareness among a population of people that do not know and with that goal, then that 1 more person has a better chance of being being able to leave and be a situation with their pet.

20:52 – Hugh Ballou So, you have a website and I’m going to show it here for watching. If you’re on audio podcast, it’s backyard foundation dot org. P. R. A L. I. N. E. S. Backyard. Foundation dot, so I’m going to show it. So you talked about it’s going to scroll down the page here. So, you got a lot of what’s in the news about you donate button. So you got traditional things here, but you scroll down really some cute pictures here. Scroll down and you got wow, you’ve really brought us donations. You gott forty three thousand one hundred people in the community followers.

21:37 – Hugh Ballou Your goal is 10 million. So there’s there’s a place people can come together and have a unified voice to do good. I commend you on that. So it’s it’s Ray Leans backyard is where you can find it. There’s even send them some message. So it’s a two-way conversation. It’s just not just you reading is you talking and I bet or is he that you answer these.

22:01 – Hugh Ballou Don’t you?

22:02 – Dr. Orazie Cook Yes, I do. Any message? Because people, and I told people, people reach out to me all the time. It could be a survivor who left their abuser five or 10 years ago, even 20 years ago, and they share their story. And it’s like, And it reaffirms the reason why I do this work. Because when I hear the stories of survivors who left their pet behind or they told me how they went back to be with their their, be with their pet because of their abuser and the difficult things that happened when they went back, it reaffirms the fact that the reason why Praline’s Backyard Foundation exists.

22:30 – Dr. Orazie Cook I wanna make sure that no one goes back. I wanna make sure that no one has to leave a pet behind with an abuser. Because I want that survivor to be able to heal and grow and flourish with their pet as they continue on with their life without their abuser.

22:43 – Hugh Ballou Sweet, and we’re going to get the last question in. Hooray. You’ve covered a lot of good stuff today. Thank you. And you’re able to say a lot of stuff and we’ve still stayed within our timeline. This is super. Looking ahead now. Headlights, not taillights. Looking ahead. Where do you see Praline’s Backyard Foundation in the next 5 years? And what does the community engagement play? What role does the community engagement play in reaching those goals?

23:13 – Dr. Orazie Cook The community plays a vital role because I say again, many hands make light work. I want as many hands as possible. And part of that, our goal over the next five years is to establish a mobile app where a community member can join that app to be a pet foster or volunteer. A pet boarding facility owner can join that app and say, I will house a pet for seven days for free or discounted rate for to support survivors in my community by housing a pet. And also we want to connect, we want a survivor to be able to interact with that act to request housing for their pet, request assistance for themselves and other resources that a survivor may need as they leave an abusive situation.

23:51 – Dr. Orazie Cook So really it takes many hands make light work. So it’s a community effort, and however we need to do that, that’s what we need to do.

23:58 – Hugh Ballou How how great that is how inspiring this has been. Thank you for being here. I’m going to do a little commercial about our community because it’s my show. So people like, you come together in the nonprofit community center vision. Actually, you go to nonprofit community dot Org. And you can join this community for a small payment every month. You get hundreds of dollars of resources, and the camaraderie peer-to-peer, and lots of resources. And if you need to know something, you can go look in your library of resources.

24:28 – Hugh Ballou It’s sort of like you see a commercial for tires, but you don’t need tires, so you pass on it. But all this stuff’s there, and you can go find the tire company, because you heard about them. Well, in the community, you may not need everything at once, but sometime you’re going to need everything I’ve created. So there’s a wealth of resources. Peer-to-peer support, and since you’re national, we have a national audience, people that help each other around the globe. So it’s a bi-invitation.

24:52 – Hugh Ballou RZ, you’re invited to join. It’s And if you’re listening to the show, you’re invited because we know where your heart is. So RZ, this has been a fireball of an interview. What do you want to leave people with as we finish up today?

25:06 – Dr. Orazie Cook I want everyone that’s listening to definitely take a moment to go to Kraline’s Backyard on all whatever social media platform that you engage with to follow, like, and share, and help us spread awareness about the barrier of survivors with PET experience. Help us raise the community of 10 million people that know about the barrier of survivors and also essentially become an advocate by sharing information with one person. Each of us did that, 20 million people would know, so help us raise awareness.

25:31 – Dr. Orazie Cook Thank you so much.

25:33 – Hugh Ballou That’s a model of what each one of us should do, or as he thank you for being our guest today on the nonprofit exchange.

25:40 – Dr. Orazie Cook Thank you.

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