Dog owners fleeing domestic abuse in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire can now have pets fostered

A Dogs Trust project that offers a temporary home for dogs to enable their owners to flee domestic abuse is officially launching in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Sunday, 7th March 2021, 6:30 pm

Pets can be a major factor in people not being able to escape domestic abuse for fear of what may happen to their beloved companions if they are left behind.

Dogs Trust research showed that almost half (49 per cent) of professionals working in the sector are aware of cases where the pet has been killed. With many refuges also unable to take animals, Dogs Trust’s Freedom Project offers dog owners a vital lifeline.

Thursday’s launch in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough means the service is now available to those who need it across the whole of the East of England.

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A Dogs Trust project that offers a temporary home for dogs to enable their owners to flee domestic abuse has launched in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
A Dogs Trust project that offers a temporary home for dogs to enable their owners to flee domestic abuse has launched in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

The Freedom Project has continued to operate throughout the pandemic to support people and their dogs.

Sarah Rowe, Freedom Project co-ordinator for the area, 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 appealed for people to apply to be Freedom foster carers in October - the response was amazing and we’ve already been able to help 20 dogs and their owners escape from domestic abuse.

“We now have 60 fantastic new volunteer foster carers in place across East Anglia and are ready to take in dogs at a moment’s notice if needed. Thanks to them, we can continue our life saving work.”

One of the people the project has already supported in East Anglia is Ella, who said: “When I had to use the Freedom Project I was married with children. My ex was at home all the time and things were getting bad, it was becoming impossible to live with him.

“I was trying to get a refuge place but I was worried about my dog, Socks, as I couldn’t leave him behind. Women’s Aid told me about the Freedom Project and said that they may be able to help us.

“Before leaving my ex would only allow our dog in one room and he would often frighten him. Although I was upset to see Socks go into foster care I saw him jump into the van and there was a new toy in there waiting for him. It was lovely seeing the updates of how he was doing and receiving the photos of him would brighten any bad day.

“When we were reunited it was amazing to have our dog home again. My children were waiting at the window all day and watching each car that went past.

“Socks came back so happy and had been really well looked after - they provided everything I needed and made the whole thing so much easier. It is such a great project and is helping so many people.”

Claire is a new volunteer foster carer in Cambridgeshire. She said: “It feels brilliant to know we have helped a family and their pet get to safety. Covid times make you feel that you cannot do what you want to do to help people as we are all so distant.

“Fostering works well as I have supported someone who is fleeing domestic abuse and have made it easier for them by caring for their dog, whilst at the same time my family have massively benefitted from having a dog in our lives. We hope that we have made a positive step in their journey.”

Julia Cullum, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Partnership manager, said: “We are pleased to see this project expanding into Cambridgeshire.

“Knowing that their beloved family pet will be looked after by pet foster carers, if they have to leave home to seek safety, will help survivors of domestic abuse to feel more able to seek support. We look forward to working with Dogs Trust.”

Ray Bisby, Acting Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire, said: “I welcome the Freedom Project expanding into Cambridgeshire and offering domestic abuse victims the reassurance they need that their cherished pet is safe in the care of volunteer foster carers while they access the support they require.

“This project is a fantastic example of organisations working together to support victims of domestic abuse in Cambridgeshire.”

Since its inception in 2004 Dogs Trust’s Freedom Project has helped almost 1,700 people fleeing domestic abuse and the service’s fosterers have cared for more than 1,800 dogs.

To become a foster carer, visit: www.dogstrustfreedomproject.org.uk. Alternatively contact [email protected] or call 0808 196 6240.

For more information, contact Leanne Goacher Plumtree on 07825 148879 or email [email protected]