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More Than Half of Pets in Violent Homes Are Victims Too

18 July 2014

UK - Dogs Trust has launched a series of striking images to highlight the link between violence towards partners and violence towards pets.

As Dogs Trust Freedom Project marks its 10th Anniversary and fosters its 1,200th pet, the charity's latest project statistics reveal that 52 per cent of the domestic violence clients using the service reported that their pets were also threatened or abused by a violent partner.

Since refuges 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.

catDogs Trust Freedom Project is an innovative pet fostering scheme providing vital help for people in Greater London, Hertfordshire & Yorkshire fleeing domestic violence (DV).

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 Cats Protection, who will arrange fostering.

Clare Kivlehan, Freedom Project Manager, says: "Animal abuse can be the first visible sign a family is living with the threat of domestic violence. 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, says: “We are seeing more and more research and clinical evidence of inter-relationships, commonly referred to as ‘links’, 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.

"As part of the Links Group, Dogs Trust is working to raise awareness amongst all professionals in the hope that agencies will work together to help prevent related cases from going undetected. Until very recently this issue was under-reported in the UK but we hope that moving forward the ‘links’ can be incorporated more fully into overall working practice.”

Clare concludes: “The Freedom Project relies upon a team of fantastic foster carers who look after dogs for an average of six months. Over the last ten years we have been supported by our wonderful volunteers, who have fostered just over 1,200 pets, helping over 840 families. Without them the Project would not exist, so we are hugely thankful for their amazing support.”

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