Dogs Trust Freedom Project, a specialist pet fostering scheme run by the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, urgently needs more foster carers to temporarily care for the dogs of survivors of domestic abuse after seeing a surge in demand for its services.
Since being launched in 2019, the Freedom Project has provided foster homes for 147 dogs in the North West, enabling survivors to access safe accommodation without the fear of what may happen to their dog if they cannot take them with them.
But this year the team have seen a 88% increase in demand from owners in need and are appealing for more dog-lovers to become foster carers so the Project can support even more survivors.
“Sadly, there is a strong link between domestic abuse and abuse to pets, with research showing that pets will often be used by a perpetrator as a tool to threaten or coerce their partners,” said Joanne Jackson, Freedom Project Regional Manager.
“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.
“As many refuges are unable to accept pets, survivors are understandably concerned about their dog’s safety when they need to escape.
“We already have fantastic volunteer foster carers in place in the region but we urgently need the dog loving public to come forward to volunteer as foster carers to help us support people and their pets when they need it most.”
The 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, although holiday cover can be provided.
All pet food and the cost of veterinary treatment is covered by Dogs Trust.
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.
“I would never have believed I could have done this,” said volunteer foster carer, Pip.
“If you have time and space in your life to take this on, but are a bit hesitant, just think of it as ‘one dog at a time’.
“The Freedom team will offer any support and advice you need, and it’s amazing how each dog will fit in and give so much back to you.
“Yes, some need more care and time than others, but that’s just the same with us.
“I was nervous at first, but my confidence grew with each dog I had.
“I’ve had some real characters, and I’ve grown fond of every single one. Some settle almost immediately; others can take rather longer to trust you.
“I’m still amazed at how quickly most of them adapt to such a huge change in their lives.
“I’m so pleased that the Freedom Project is in the region – I keep a photo album of my various ‘house guests’, I love to look back and recall the fun I had with them.”
In the North West, the Freedom Project works in partnership with Endeavour Domestic Abuse Services who foster cats and small pets.