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‘Animal Abuse can be the First Visible Sign a Family is Living with the Threat of Domestic Violence’

sad puppyCreativecommons.org/ hannah k

Shocking statistics from the UK’s Dogs Trust charity reveal that a whopping 52 percent of domestic violence victims using the organisation’s Freedom Project service reported that their pets were also threatened or abused by a violent partner.

As refuges and safe-houses are largely unable to accommodate pets, many people remain in violent domestic situations simply for fear of what might happen to their pet if they were to flee without it.

The Dogs Trust Freedom Project is an innovative pet fostering scheme providing vital help for people in Greater London, Hertfordshire & Yorkshire who are fleeing domestic violence. The scheme works by temporarily placing the pet at risk with a volunteer foster carer who will care for them in their own home until they can be safely reunited with their owner. In Greater London & Hertfordshire the project also accepts cats, working alongside the Cats Protection charity, which organises fostering.

Since the project started in 2004, it has helped 1,200 pets find temporary homes while their families fled domestic violence.
 
"Animal abuse can be the first visible sign a family is living with the threat of domestic violence,” said Clare Kivlehan, Freedom Project Manager. “Pets that are regarded as a source of comfort in families can be targeted as abusers may see them as a way to exert the power or control they seek without initially inflicting harm directly on their partner or children.

“We believe that this sort of abuse is actually under-reported as victims may feel responsible somehow or feel they may be judged about what has gone on previously in their home. However, this is a reality for some families, which is why it’s so important there are pet fostering services available for when they choose to leave an abusive home.”

Reports from clients on the Freedom Project include:

  • “Threatened to kill my pets in front of me”
  • “She had a cut between her eyes and belly”
  • “Threatened to stab my dog”
  • “My cat has been intimidated and kicked”

Paula Boyden, Dogs Trust Veterinary Director added: “We are seeing more and more research and clinical evidence of inter-relationships between the abuse of children, vulnerable adults and animals. We strongly believe that a better understanding of these links would help to protect victims, both human and animal.” 

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