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Dogs Trust: Helping owners leave their abusers, with their pets in safe hands

Dog being pet by owner
© Dogs Trust - Youtube

In the midst of domestic violence the all-too-common leverage of an abuser is the family pet. When family life turns sour and domestic abuse is rife, the Freedom Project assists victims of abuse by keeping a pet safe.

By Nick Whittle, 25 Sep 2019

Dogs Trust has been running the Freedom Project for 15 years. It was set up in the midst of a call for greater protection of the victims of domestic abuse. The Trust was one of the first charities to recognise the shocking truth that pets caught in the middle of violence at home are often injured or killed by the perpetrator.

The Dogs Trust found that almost all professionals attempting to intervene in domestic abuse cases reported the abuse of a pet. Half of those workers said the family pet had been killed by the abuser, either in anger or as retribution.

Furthermore, 97% of professionals were aware that the family pet and its wellbeing were used as a controlling mechanism to further abuse.

Taken hostage

Very often a pet will become the last vestige of the abuser who seeks ever more desperate measures to maintain control of his (or her) victim. Pets are on the while a much-loved and prized member of the family. This status lends them to be sought after as the most valuable “hostage”.

The Freedom Project arranges foster carers to look after pets that have become the pawn in domestic abuse. Foster families look after the pet while cases are settled or while the owner of the pet is themself in a refuge or under police protection.

Dogs Trust is always looking for additional foster carers. You would be required to foster a family pet for up to six months. If this is something you would be interested in doing, get in touch with Dogs Trust.


Some refuges of course may take pets. We wrote recently about a shelter that changed its “no pets” policy following the arrival of a woman and her dog. The dog, having saved its owners life, ended up being the centre's first non-human guest.