03/26/2014 02:04 EDT | Updated 05/25/2014 05:59 EDT

At a rising number of domestic violence shelters, there is a place for both people and pets

NEW YORK, N.Y. - A shelter in New York City quietly harbours domestic violence survivors, their children and — now — their pets.

It's the first animal friendly facility among the 50-plus emergency domestic violence shelters in the nation's largest city. And it's one in a fast-growing number of similar sanctuaries around the country.

A leading advocate says the numbers have shot up from four nationwide in 2008 to at least 73 now, with 15 more being planned.

They reflect growing awareness that animals can be victims of family violence and key factors in their owners' willingness to flee.

The New York shelter began allowing cats and pocket pets in June and dogs last month. It's run by the Urban Resource Institute, with help from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.