Project launched to help dog owners escape domestic abuse

A women hugs a dog on a park bench

A Dogs Trust project that offers a temporary home for pets to help their owners escape domestic abuse has launched in East Anglia. - Credit: Richard Murgatroyd Photography

A Dogs Trust project that offers a temporary home for pets to help their owners escape domestic abuse has launched in East Anglia.

The Freedom Project offers temporary homes for dogs to help people escape their situation. The trust says 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’re left behind.

A Dogs Trust survey from 2019 with professionals supporting those impacted by domestic abuse showed that 49pc of people working in the sector are aware of cases where the pet has been killed.

A dog looking at someone

The freedom project offers temporary homes for dogs to help people escape their situation. - Credit: Richard Murgatroyd Photography

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."


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One of the people the project has already supported in East Anglia is Ella*.

A dog on a bed

The trust says 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’re left behind. - Credit: Richard Murgatroyd Photography

She said: “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, as I couldn’t leave them behind. Women’s Aid told me about the Freedom Project and said that they may be able to help us.

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“Before leaving, my ex would only allow our dog in one room and he would often frighten him. Although I was upset to see them 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."

The trust, which has a base in Snetterton, launched an appeal in October to get people on board with the project, and now has 60 volunteers ready to take an animal in at short notice.

A dog smiling on a armchair

They have already helped 20 dogs and their owners escape from domestic abuse. - Credit: Richard Murgatroyd Photography

They have already helped 20 dogs and their owners escape from domestic abuse.

The project needs foster carers to support this vital service. If you think you can help or would like more information on the service, please visit www.dogstrustfreedomproject.org.uk

Alternatively contact freedomproject@dogstrust.org.uk or call 0808 196 6240.

*Name has been changed.

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