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Dog foster carers still needed to help families flee Domestic Violence

domestic violence pet

The Freedom Project, a pet fostering scheme run by the UK’s dog welfare charity, Dogs Trust, recently launched an appeal to animal-lovers in the Greater London, Hertfordshire and Yorkshire areas to temporarily care for the pets of victims of domestic violence.

Domestic violence (DV) affects one in four women at some time in their life and research shows there are definite links between the abuse of adults, children and animals. Often a pet is the only source of affection for a victim of DV, yet refuges and temporary accommodation facilities frequently cannot allow pets.

Clare Kivlehan, Freedom Project Manager, explains why the project was set up: “Unfortunately women often remain in a violent situation as they fear their partner will deliberately harm their pet if they leave; it can come down to making the choice between your own safety and that of your pet. The Freedom Project allows women in this terrible situation to know that their beloved pet will be cared for so they can escape the violent household and set up a new life.”

Sarah-Jane Honeywell is well known for her career as a CBeebies TV presenter and children’s entertainer but fourteen years ago was in an abusive relationship where she and her pets experienced domestic violence.

Sarah-Jane explains: “I was 22 years old at the time and I’m sorry to say that I put up with quite a lot of physical abuse from my ex partner before I finished the relationship. The final straw came when he turned against my pets. That was enough for me: I can take a lot but I cannot take any abuse to animals.

I found new homes for my two cats Figaro and Ezme over the next week and told my ex I didn’t want them any more because they were too much to cope with. I felt like I’d let them down, but I knew they couldn’t stay in that situation. Once they were safe I broke up with him – I knew he would get angry and I didn’t want them to get hurt too.

Although I moved on and am now in a wonderful relationship, I still find it hard to forgive myself for allowing this to happen to my pets.  I only wish something like the Freedom Project had existed back then. I think I would have ended the relationship much more quickly if I’d known there was a safe, temporary foster home for my cats. Although I’m glad I was able to save them from any further abuse I really miss them and sorely regret having given them away.”

Since Dogs Trust set up Freedom Project six years ago over 700 pets have been helped. Staff receive calls daily from referral agencies including the domestic violence charity Refuge and several Social Services departments, so more dog foster carers are urgently needed.

Dog foster placements generally last around nine months. During the placement the Freedom Project provides all pet food and veterinary treatment free of charge. Total anonymity is assured, dogs will not be fostered in the area where the owner is from and the carer who fosters the dog will not know who the owner is or where they live. Freedom Project staff provide help and support and each placement is monitored on a regular basis.

Volunteers should already own a dog or have experience of looking after them, need to be available during the day to look after the client’s dog in their own home, and should be flexible about which breed they are willing to care for. In multi-pet households Cats Protection will care for the cats.

Cats Protection joined the scheme six years ago and has since helped nearly 200 cats, from both multi-pet and cat-only households, in the Greater London and Hertfordshire areas.  As with dogs, cat foster placements can also last up to nine months and Cats Protection provides care and veterinary treatment free of charge whilst providing anonymity and regular updates to the owner.

For more information regarding becoming a dog foster carer or to use this service, contact

London Freedom Project  – telephone 0800 298 9199 or email freedomproject@dogstrust.org.uk

Yorkshire Freedom Project – telephone 0800 083 4322 or email freedomproject@dogstrust.org.uk

If you are suffering domestic violence call the Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Helpline on 0808 2000 247 run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge. The freephone helpline is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and all calls are confidential.

If you would like to volunteer for Dogs Trust but do not live in Greater London, Hertfordshire or Yorkshire, the charity’s network of 17 rehoming centres across the UK always welcome volunteer dog walkers, dog socialisers, pre-adoption home visitors and fundraisers. For more details please see www.dogstrust.org.uk

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  1. [...] didn’t help the situation but I guess what I am trying to say is don’t look for excuses.  Domestic violence in any form is not something that you have to put up with it, no matter how bad things get please [...]

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