‘Sometimes it can be difficult when the dogs go back to their owners. I seem to feel a special attachment to the ones who’ve caused me the most effort and worry. But knowing they’re returning safely to a family who wants them makes it easier.’
During the foster placement the Freedom Project covers the cost of pet food and veterinary treatment. Total anonymity is assured, meaning dogs will not be fostered in the area where the owner is from, and carers don’t know their identity or location.
Meanwhile, owners like Kimberly and Alice receive reassuring updates on how their pet is doing whilst in care.
Freedom Project manager Amy Hyde isn’t shocked by the new figures. ‘We see first-hand the myriad ways that perpetrators use dogs to coerce, control, physically harm and threaten within abusive relationships. This is incredibly frightening for survivors,’ she explains.
‘We have heard of perpetrators stopping survivors from accessing vet care for their dogs or being able to spend money on dog food, and even repeatedly threatening to harm, kill or ‘get rid’ of their dogs.
‘They prey on the strong bonds people have with their pets, making these animals vulnerable to abuse because of the psychological and emotional damage this causes. As many refuges are unable to accept pets, survivors are understandably concerned about their dog’s safety when they need to escape; the Freedom Project offers them a vital lifeline.’
Kimberly attests. Now happily reunited with Penny and Rusty, she reflects on the moment she escaped her abusive partner.
‘I had one opportunity when he left the house for an hour,’ she says. ‘With the help of my sister, I moved out, took my dogs to two separate family members and went into the women’s refuge – that’s where I heard about the Freedom Project.
‘I was reluctant at first as I felt I was giving my dogs away to a stranger, but I was so well supported by the team.
‘The day they came home was overwhelming and I was nervous that Penny and Rusty wouldn’t settle back in. Thankfully they did settle after just one day – I felt complete again and ‘normal’.
‘I cannot explain just how much it has meant to me and our lives. It’s hard to say where we might have been without the Freedom Project – or if I might have been alive.
‘My journey was made so much easier knowing my babies were loved and cared for. I can never repay what the Freedom Project has done for me.’
*The names of the dogs and their owners have been changed