There are many barriers that will prevent someone from leaving an abusive relationship. Fears about upsetting children, losing ties to local area, and experiencing financial uncertainty can make people postpone making a final decision to leave. One common barrier to leaving can be the fear of what will happen to pets. Understandably, people don’t want to leave their pets behind when going to refuge. But most refuges are unable to take pets. To remove this worry and provide temporary safety for pets, some support organisations have begun introducing fostering schemes – but the schemes are underfunded and don’t cover the whole nation.
Wales is the only part of the UK where a pet fostering service covers every region. The Help4Wales foundation was set up in 2017 and it is not unusual for them to field 50+ enquiries every month. The foundation has 78 volunteers who will look after pets for up to one year – all food and vets bills are paid for by the foundation. Demand for the service outstrips availability and the foundation cannot afford to protect as many pets as they would like. The BBC News website ran an article about the Help4Wales foundation earlier this year.
Dog’s Trust – Freedom Project
Dog’s Trust run a similar scheme, exclusively for dogs, called Freedom Project. They foster dogs in London and the Home Counties, Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham. Last year, they opened the first dog fostering service in Scotland. All expenses are covered and they hope to expand further in the coming years.
Cats Protection – Paws Protect
Cats Protection is an organisation primarily concerned with the welfare of cats. They have set up the Paws Protect project – a cat fostering service for families who need to escape abusive relationships. As with the Help4Wales and Dog’s Trust schemes all food and vet bills are taken care of by Cats Protection while the cat is in the foster home. Owners are kept informed of their pet’s wellbeing and can be reunited when they have moved out of refuge. Unfortunately, the scheme is not in operation across the UK yet and is only available in certain counties. The programme had been running in partnership with the Dog’s Trust for over a decade before launching independently last year. Over 100 cats have since been referred to the service.
Norfolk and Waveney Pet Fostering
None of theses charities currently operate in our region, but the RSPCA has a scheme called Pet Retreat – which we have used in the past to provide foster homes for the pets of people who are experiencing domestic abuse. Our concern is always that a person may put themselves in danger because they wish to protect a pet and do not realise that these pet-fostering services are available in our region.
Pet fostering is clearly an idea whose time has come. We hope that organisations like the three featured here will continue to access adequate funding to maintain the services they provide in the regions they provide them and to expand their services to cover the rest of the country.
Leeway is an independent, Norfolk-based domestic abuse charity. If you are experiencing domestic abuse, or have concerns about someone else, call our support line on 0300 561 0077 for confidential advice.
Want to get involved in fundraising for Leeway? Check out our upcoming events or download a fundraising pack and organise one yourself.
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