A specialist dog fostering scheme which supports people fleeing domestic abuse is issuing an urgent plea for more foster carers after seeing a 23% increase in demand for its services over the last 12 months.
The Freedom Project, managed by Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, offers a lifeline for dog owners who are escaping from domestic abuse. It provides temporary foster homes for dogs, enabling survivors to access safe accommodation without the fear of what may happen to their dog if they cannot take them with them.
Pets are often abused and, in some cases, killed by the perpetrator of domestic abuse in order to control and coerce. In addition to the physical abuse that pets may suffer, Dogs Trust found that 97% of professionals working in the domestic abuse sector also said that animals are often used as a means of controlling someone experiencing domestic abuse.
Dogs Trust’s Freedom Project now urgently needs additional volunteer foster carers so that the scheme can support more people
So far this year, Freedom Project volunteers have fostered 211 dogs, allowing 163 people to flee domestic abuse.
Due to the increase in demand on its services, Dogs Trust’s Freedom Project now urgently needs additional volunteer foster carers so that the scheme can support more people. All costs are covered by Dogs Trust, including vet bills, food, treats, grooming and bedding.
Involvement in fostering through the project is always kept completely confidential to protect both the dogs and the foster carers. Dogs are not fostered within the area that the owner is from and the foster carer will not know who the owner is or where they live.
James is currently fostering for the Freedom Project. He says, “I really wanted to get a dog but I feel ready for the long-term commitment at the time. Fostering through the Freedom Project seemed like the perfect solution. It’s also meant I have got to meet different breeds of dogs and it has really opened my eyes to types of dogs that I didn’t think I’d like!
“At first, I didn’t realise the impact of fostering fleeing abuse would have on the family, being separated. I was just focused on me and the dog. But after my first foster, I received a card from the owner thanking me for looking after their dog. This made me feel a connection to them and made me realise what I was doing. And I embraced fostering in a much different perspective after that. Fostering became much more rewarding for me then.
“I feel proud of my efforts and happy for the families I have helped because I know the impact it’s had on them being able to change their lives. I also feel very proud of the dogs because they’ve been through a lot too.”
“We support survivors to access safe accommodation with the reassurance that their dog will be taken care of until they can be reunited”
Laura Saunders, Freedom Project Manager at Dogs Trust, added, “We’ve seen first-hand the ways that perpetrators use dogs to coerce, control, physically harm and threaten within abusive relationships. This is incredibly frightening for survivors and is often aimed to leave people isolated.
“By providing temporary foster homes for dogs, we support survivors to access safe accommodation with the reassurance that their dog will be taken care of until they can be reunited.
“Whilst we are pleased to have been able to help so many people, there is still very much a need for our service, and we urgently need more foster carers across the UK so that we can continue this life-saving work.”
The Dogs Trust Freedom Project is looking for volunteers who are at home during the day, potentially people who are retired or work from home. They must have some experience of caring for dogs and be able to commit to fostering a dog for at least six months.
If you think you can help or would like more information on the service, visit www.dogstrustfreedomproject.org.uk or call 0808 196 6240.
This is a guest post by Dogs Trust.