Almost nine in 10 professionals working in the domestic abuse sector have seen cases where a pet has also been abused, according to shocking new statistics released by Dogs Trust.
The figures have been released as the charity launches its Freedom project in Buckinghamshire, supporting people fleeing domestic abuse by providing temporary accommodation for their dogs.
Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, already operates the service in London and five of the Home counties and are expanding into Buckinghamshire this year.
New figures reveal that over 6 in 10 (63%)2 of dogs owned by survivors of domestic abuse who accessed Dogs Trust Freedom project in the Greater London and the Home Counties where they currently operate, have also been subjected to abuse.
The charity polled professionals who work with survivors of domestic abuse in London and the Home Counties where it currently operates in, to better understand the scale of abuse against pets within abusive relationships in this area.
Worryingly, 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.
In addition to the physical abuse that pets may suffer, 98% of professionals said they are also often used as a means of controlling someone experiencing domestic abuse.
More than nine in 10 professionals (93%) also said that some survivors will not leave their home without knowing their pet would be safe.
In 2004 Dogs Trust launched its Freedom Project, offering vital support for dog owners who are escaping from 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 service currently operates across the whole of Scotland and in 29 counties across England. The service has helped 1,418 dogs and 1,083 people since launching.
Dogs Trust has now expanded its Freedom project into Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Berkshire and the North West.3 In the last year alone, due to the project being rolled out into additional areas of the country, the number of dogs being fostered through its Freedom project has more than doubled, from 70 between January and July 2018, compared to 148 in the same period in 20194.
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 Buckinghamshire so that we can continue this life-saving work.”
Ian and Emma, Freedom Project foster carer volunteers since 2013, said:
“I have met so many amazing dogs during my time working with Dogs Trust Freedom Project and would urge anyone that is interested in fostering a dog, to get in touch with the team. The average time the dogs spend with me is around 6 months. They are often worried when they first arrive but to see them develop into a confident and contented ‘guest’ is very rewarding. Whilst I never meet the owners of the dogs I foster, it’s wonderful to know that I am helping them leave a difficult situation, all whilst ensuring they have peace of mind that their dog is safe.”
Claire Paine, Deputy Head of Services at domestic abuse charity, Aylesbury Woman’s Aid who works alongside Dogs Trust in Buckinghamshire, said:
“Many women find it difficult to leave abusive relationships because they are worried about their beloved pets. We are so grateful to Dogs Trust for their innovative Freedom Project. Knowing that their dog will be safe, secure and returned to them when they are settled, removes one of the barriers to leaving.
“Having worked with the Freedom Project we have found that this professional, caring and responsive service has made a profound difference to many people's (and dogs’) lives.”
Dogs Trust Freedom Project needs foster carers in Buckinghamshire to support this vital service. If you think you can help or would like more information on the service, please visit: www.dogstrustfreedomproject.org.uk Alternatively contact email@example.com or call 0800 298 9199.