Dogs Trust has launched a series of images to highlight the link between violence towards partners and violence towards pets.

The canine rehoming charity has released the images to mark the 10th anniversary of its Freedom Project, a pet fostering scheme providing help for people in Greater London, Yorkshire and Hertfordshire seeking refuge from domestic violence in temporary accommodation that can’t accept pets.

According to the project, statistics have revealed that 52% of the domestic violence clients using the service reported their pets were also threatened or abused by a violent partner. As refuges are largely unable to accommodate pets, many people remain in violent domestic situations for fear of what would happen to their pet if they were to flee without it, found the project.

Freedom project manager Clare Kivlehan said animal abuse can be the first visible sign a family is living with the threat of domestic violence.

“Pets that are regarded as a source of comfort in families can be targeted as abusers may see them as a way to exert the power or control they seek without initially inflicting harm directly on their partner or children,” she said. “We believe this sort of abuse is actually under-reported as victims may feel responsible somehow or feel they may be judged about what has gone on previously in their home.

“However, this is a reality for some families, which is why it’s so important there are pet fostering services available for when they choose to leave an abusive home.”

According to clients of the Freedom Project, reports have included:

  • “threatened to kill my pets in front of me”
  • “she had a cut between her eyes and belly”
  • “threatened to stab my dog”
  • “my cat has been intimidated and kicked”

Dogs Trust veterinary director Paula Boyden said the charity is seeing “more and more research and clinical evidence” of inter-relationships – referred to as “links” – between the abuse of children, vulnerable adults and animals.

“We strongly believe a better understanding of these links would help to protect victims, both human and animal. As part of the Links Group, Dogs Trust is working to raise awareness among all professionals in the hope agencies will work together to help prevent related cases from going undetected.

“Until very recently this issue was under-reported in the UK, but we hope that moving forward, the links can be incorporated more fully into overall working practice.”

Ms Kivlehan, meanwhile, made a plea for more foster carers for the Freedom Project.

“The project relies upon a team of fantastic carers who look after dogs for an average of six months. Over the last ten years we have been supported by our wonderful volunteers, who have fostered slightly more than 1,200 pets, helping more than 840 families.

“Without them, the project would not exist, so we are hugely thankful for their amazing support.”

Anyone who might want to join the foster carer team can either email the project or visit its website.

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