Dogs Trust is launching a new project in Bedfordshire that offers support for dog owners who are escaping domestic abuse.
The Freedom Project provides foster homes for dogs and enables survivors to access safe accommodation without the fear of what may happen to their dog if left behind.
Dogs Trust offers this service as many refuges are unable to accept dogs, so this important service gives pet owners the opportunity to escape abuse, safe in the knowledge that their dogs will also be safe and well cared for.
The Freedom Project has helped 1,418 dogs and 1,083 people since launching in 2004.
Dogs Trust has released statistics that reveal almost nine in 10 professionals working in the domestic abuse sector have seen cases where a pet has also been abused. The figures have been released as the charity launches its Freedom project into Bedfordshire.
Louise Gostling, Dogs Trust Freedom Project Coordinator for Greater London and the Home Counties said: “Alongside suffering physical abuse, we know that dogs are also often used by perpetrators as a means to coerce and control their partners.
"This is incredibly frightening for survivors and can range from perpetrators stopping their partner from accessing vet care for their dogs or spending money on dog food, through to repeatedly threatening to harm, kill or ‘get rid’ of their dogs.
"As many refuges are unable to accept pets, survivors are understandably concerned about their dog’s safety when they need to escape.
“We have recently expanded our Freedom Project nationally to support even more survivors and their pets from abuse.
"We need foster carers in Bedfordshire so that we can continue this life-saving work.”
The UK's largest dog welfare charity polled professionals who work with survivors of domestic abuse in London and the Home Counties, to better understand the scale of abuse against pets within abusive relationships in this area.
The findings showed that almost half (49%) of professionals working in the sector are aware of domestic abuse cases where the pet has been killed.
Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of national domestic abuse charity Refuge, who works alongside Dogs Trust, said: "At Refuge we know that many perpetrators of domestic abuse also abuse pets – women tell us their partners control and frighten them by threatening to harm or kill their pets.
"This is backed up by statistics from the National Domestic Violence Helpline where on average 1 in 86 women we speak to tell us that their pets have also been abused by the perpetrator.
"Ensuring a much-loved pet finds temporary confidential homing, where it will be safe and looked after, can often be a key factor in enabling a woman to leave her violent partner and seek her own refuge accommodation.
“Refuge is delighted to be working in partnership with the Dogs Trust Freedom Project; women, children and their pets have the right to live free from violence and fear.”
Dogs Trust Freedom Project needs foster carers in Bedfordshire to support this service. If you think you can help or would like more information on the service, visit: www.dogstrustfreedomproject.org.uk.