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Safe haven for victims of violence

THE UK’S leading dog welfare charity is offering to help women fleeing domestic violence by placing their pets in foster homes… and is reminding people that domestic violence towards animals as well as people flares up over the festive period.

The Dogs Trust says many women remain in a violent situation because they fear their partner will harm their pet if they leave.

The charity operates the Freedom Project for pet-owning victims of abuse throughout Yorkshire and Greater London. Dogs referred to the project are placed with volunteer foster carers until they can be reunited with their families.

Rowena Richardson, a domestic abuse officer for Harrogate & District Safer Communities Partnership in North Yorkshire, said: ‘At a time of year when there is a strong message about a dog being for life not just for Christmas, it is important to make sure that women are aware that they have this service available to them.

‘Women must be able to feel that there is support out there for them, their children and their pets, and this project will liberate many from harmful situations.’

To qualify for help women must provide information about their pet and confirmation from a support group or agency that they are fleeing violence. This can come from Women's Aid, a refuge, solicitor, the police or social services.

The Trust advises that if a victim has to leave quickly and leave pets behind, they ask for a police escort to accompany them to their home to collect their pets and possessions.

The Dogs Trust will pick up the pet from a safe location and take it directly to the new foster home and usually require three working days notice to arrange a placement.

All foster dogs are registered with a vet close to their carer and all veterinary costs are covered by the charity.

One woman who used the Freedom Project said: ‘Knowing that my dog is being cared for by Dogs Trust Freedom Project has made things a lot easier for my children and me.

‘It has been a really stressful time for us, but being able to leave my violent partner and knowing my pet will be safe and cared for was a huge relief.’