By STEVEN NALLEY
Those fleeing domestic abuse do not have to leave their pets behind.
Becky Telle, philanthropist with Mississippi State University’s Alpha Psi veterinary medicine co-ed fraternity, said the local Safe Haven for Women didn’t just help women escaping from domestic violence and sexual assault. It also had a subsidiary called Safe Haven for Animals, she said, in recognition of the challenges taking care of a pet during such an escape presents.
“Safe Haven ... allows battered women to submit their pets while they try to set up a new life or get away from abusers,” Telle said. “We take care of them as long as they need.”
MSU’s Alpha Psi chapter and its College of Veterinary Medicine hosted the second Dog Dash 5K and fun run and walk at MSU’s North Farm Saturday to benefit Safe Haven for Animals.
Participants were free to bring their dogs along with them for the run, and Telle said out of an estimated 80 participants, about 30 brought dogs. She said the cause was close to the hearts of all Alpha Psi members.
“One of our instructors, Dr. Sharon Grace, created this (Safe Haven for Animals) program with the shelter,” Telle said. “It’s a unique cause. Veterinary students really care, because we understand the importance of a family pet in situations like that.”
Rachelle Stammen, MSU Alpha Psi president, said while the Dog Dash was in its second year, this was MSU’s first year inviting the public to the event. Last year, she said, the Alpha Psi social chair primarily focused on getting word out about Dog Dash to MSU veterinary students and faculty, bringing out 25-30 people.
The strategy for bringing in participants might have changed this year, Stammen said, but the locale did not. In future years, she said, larger Dog Dashes might relocate to campus, but for now, she said she considered North Farm the perfect location for participants and their pets.
“We’re all really used to it,” Stammen said. “This is where a lot of veterinary students go to play with their dogs. Plus, we didn’t have to close any roads.”
Cass Barbick said the Dog Dash was her first 5K race, but she appreciated the unique opportunity for her pet to race with her, as well as Safe Haven programs.
“It’s just for a good cause that’s very important to me, and I wanted to come support it,” Barbick said.
Chris Williams is the owner of Peak Nutrition, one of the Dog Dash’s sponsors. He said he loved dogs and therefore could not say “no” to Alpha Psi when members approached him about sponsoring. He said he, too, found the idea of dogs joining their owners in a 5K unique and fun, and he valued the work Safe Haven did, particularly for MSU students.
“A lot of my sponsorships have revolved around student life more so than corporate events,” Williams said. “If you haven’t been, you should go next year.”