A local non-profit for domestic violence survivors donated $20,000 to the San Diego Humane Society Monday to start a program for survivors and their pets.
Kathy's Legacy Foundation presented its donation at 11 a.m. Monday at the San Diego Humane Society’s shelter on Gaines Street just outside Mission Bay.
"Sadly, domestic violence victims feel forced to stay in abusive homes because they don't want to subject their animals to continued abuse, if left behind," Dr. Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society, said in a release. "For that reason, it is crucial they have a safe place to turn with their pets."
Kathleen “Kathy” Scharbarth, 34, was found strangled to death over the Thanksgiving weekend in 2011. Her ex-boyfriend was arrested on kidnapping and murder charges, which he pleaded not guilty to, before dying by suicide in a Vista jail on March 3, 2012.
Her ex-boyfriend, Michael David Robles, had a history of physical abuse, according to court documents.
“She was a victim of domestic violence. Kathy’s daughter, Madison, and her yellow Lab, Lady, were present in the home when she was murder,” said Ginny Scharbarth, co-founder and executive director of Kathy's Legacy Foundation. “We are committed to revive hope, restore normalcy, and inspire dreams in the lives of children and their pets impacted by domestic violence.”
Ginny Scharbarth said Lady was like another daughter to Kathy Scharbarth.
“They don’t want to leave their pets, but they’re in an abusive situation -- what do you do? You stay for your pets as if you would stay for your children. So, this is going to make a difference for them to have a safe haven,” Ginny Scharbarth said.
Kathy Scharbarth and Lady were inseparable. They enjoyed long walks, cuddling, and lying in the sun. Kathy Scharbarth even spoiled Lady with turkey bacon and scrambled eggs. Lady was even kicked out of a few training classes, Ginny Scharbarth said with a smile.
“Sadly, Lady witnessed Kathy’s murder. It was evident she missed Kathy by her somber demeanor. Lady was a victim of domestic violence as well,” said Ginny Scharbarth.
Weitzman said there is a direct link between animal violence and violence that extends to humans.
“A domestic violence program is absolutely essential in taking in the fact that it’s not just the victims of domestic violence that need safe housing, but it’s also the animals that prevent them from finding that housing,” the San Diego Humane Society CEO said. “Animals like Lady, who really was Kathy’s daughter, I would say, at that time, and meant the world to her, who made it very difficult for her to seek housing and safety in a situation that was more dangerous than she or her family even knew.”
The $20,000 will go toward a new domestic violence program, according to Kathy's Legacy Foundation.
In September of 2012, then California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill known as “Kathy’s Law” into law that strengthened restraining orders by allowing judges to order GPS monitoring devices for domestic violence suspects found to pose a threat to an alleged victim.
In 2014, the Scharbarth family created Kathy's Legacy Foundation with the intentions of turning their tragedy into hope for others.
“How do you not smile? This is her legacy. I’m smiling -- I’m proud,” Ginny Scharbarth told NBC 7.
April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, which the foundation said was the perfect time to announce the partnership.