Fostering freedom: saving domestic violence victims and their dogs

Freedom Project
Image by Richard Murgatroyd Photography

Dogs Trust’s Freedom Project relies on a network of foster homes to provide temporary care for dogs whose owners have to flee domestic violence, but are unable to immediately take their pet with them due to the lack of pet-friendly refuges. Fearing for their pet’s safety should they be left with the abuser, victims can be compelled to remain in the relationship; Freedom Project and other similar services remove this obstacle.   

‘Amy’, from Suffolk, talks about her choice to become a foster carer for the Freedom Project…

Why did you become a foster carer?
We had always had dogs and grown up around them, but it has never been the right time to own a dog and we like to travel so we looked at fostering and on the Dogs Trust website we saw the Freedom Project. This sounded right for us, we could foster a dog for longer term, knowing that the dog had a home to go back to and because of the aims of the project, we knew there was a bigger picture than just fostering a dog, you were helping a family too.

What do you enjoy about being a foster carer?
Having a dog around the house is lovely, being a foster carer fits in well to our lifestyle and as we cannot commit to ownership of a dog permanently, this is great for us. It gives you a reason to go out for walks and to be more active and we really enjoy the company of our foster dog.

Image by Richard Murgatroyd Photography

Why did you decide to foster specifically to help families fleeing domestic abuse?
We did not know about the Freedom Project and came it across it on the website. The added factor that we were helping a family as well really made us want to foster even more. Even if we only ever foster 1 dog, it will mean we have helped 1 family. Prior to learning about the project, we did not realise it was a reason that people could not leave their situation and after finding out more, it makes real sense that someone would not want to leave their dog behind or felt trapped because they could not leave their dog. It made us realise that what we do is more than just fostering a dog.

Has the pandemic and lockdown had an impact on your health and wellbeing, or your mental health? Has having a foster dog helped with that?
Definitely, prior to lockdown, I travelled a lot for work and now I am at home and barely leave the house. Having a dog has made a real difference to both of us, it has lifted our spirits, it has made us naturally happier whilst being in lockdown. If I had to walk on my own for 2 hours, I probably would not, but knowing I was taking a dog out for a 2-hour walk is totally different and it makes us want to walk and we really enjoy it, especially during the winter months, having a dog has been a nice distraction. We always have something to talk and laugh about when we have a dog with us. Plus watching tv whilst cuddling a dog is much nicer than just watching tv!

“Whilst we do not know the about where our foster dog came from, we do know that we have helped a family be safe”

Has support from the Freedom team been beneficial during the pandemic?
I could not ask for anything more, they are always there when you need them, and they do an amazing job. The support we have had and the contact from the very beginning has been great and in building relationships with the team, I know I can ask anything, I do not feel like I am being judged at all if I asked a difficult question, I could call, text or email and it has been great to develop relationships. They have sent out anything we may need, whenever asked with food and toys etc. I genuinely could not ask for anything more. The team have been really supportive and always available. When our foster dog went to the vets, they offered lots support and advice.

Image by Richard Murgatroyd Photography

How does it feel knowing you have helped a family and their pet get to safety?
It is a really nice feeling. The difference it can make to someone by being able to help them with their dog has made us feel that we have made a big difference and whilst we do not know the about where our foster dog came from, we do know that we have helped a family be safe. During the pandemic it must be so hard for people to leave and by fostering a dog we can have a positive ripple affect on the family by helping in this way.

What is the most challenging part of being a foster carer? Does the support from the team help with this?
Nothing has been a challenge; we went into fostering with our eyes wide open and there is nothing that has phased us. It is nice to know that we are helping a family and we have had all the support we need if ever there were to be any hiccups. Seeing our foster dog settle with us and grow in confidence and to enjoy being with us is so lovely and we have enjoyed all of it.

What is the most rewarding part of being a foster carer?
It must be knowing why you are doing it. We are giving support to a family and can only imagine how hard it is to be away from their dog. Fostering any dog is rewarding and has a real purpose but fostering for the Freedom Project feels it has an extra added purpose.

All images are posed by models. 

For more information about the Freedom Project, click here.


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