What is the Freedom Project?
Dogs Trust Freedom Project is a dog fostering service for people fleeing domestic abuse and going into refuge. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the project, which has helped over 1,400 people to flee domestic abuse and now runs in Greater London & the Home Counties, Yorkshire, the North East, the North West, and Scotland.
How does the Freedom Project help?
Many refuges are not in a position to accept pets so in many cases people experiencing domestic abuse are unable to leave their home until they know there is somewhere safe for their dog. Dogs Trust offers a solution by providing free and confidential foster care, enabling the owner to access a refuge without the fear of what may happen to their dog if left behind.
Gemma is a survivor and has waived her right to anonymity in order to talk about her experience of domestic abuse and the Freedom Project.
"I had been in an abusive relationship for 3 years. I eventually managed to flee and went into a refuge with my son, but they were unable to take pets which led me to discover the Freedom Project. They were fantastic and within 24 hours they had found Dusty a foster home. The staff on the Freedom Project showed such compassion and understanding and reassured me daily. The service is outstanding and it’s because of the Freedom Project that us three amigos – myself, my son, and Dusty – are still together.
"Losing Dusty would have destroyed me – he’s the one who I broke down to and the one who laid beside me every time I cried. He was my comfort blanket and thanks to the Freedom Project and the volunteer foster carer, he still is. My life has changed, and so has Dusty’s, and for that we are extremely grateful."
Watch Gemma's story
Our 15th anniversary
We launched the Freedom Project in 2004, offering vital support for dog owners who are escaping from domestic abuse. On it’s 15th anniversary this year, the service now operates in 29 counties across England and the whole of Scotland and has helped more than 1,400 dogs. Our research shows the need for the service is more important than ever.
- Almost nine in 10 professionals working in the domestic abuse sector have seen cases where a pet has also been abused.
- Almost half (49%) of professionals working in the sector are aware of domestic abuse cases here the pet has been killed.
- In addition to the physical abuse that pets may suffer, 97% of professionals said they are also often used as a means of controlling someone experiencing domestic abuse.
- More than nine in 10 professionals (95%) also said that some survivors will not leave their home without knowing their pet would be safe.
Donate to the Freedom Project
Luke is an advocate for the vital need of Dogs Trust Freedom Project after his mother, sister and dog were killed by his abusive father.
"Pets suffer domestic abuse too. We only realised after our father had murdered our mother, Claire, and 19-year-old sister, Charlotte, that he had also killed one of our dogs, Max, just weeks before. Max had died suddenly when our father was alone with him, and our father claimed it was due to natural causes, however we have since learned that pet abuse is a common tactic for domestic abusers.
"Our dogs meant so much to us and leaving them behind was never an option. The Freedom Project is so important because by helping pets flee to safety, it gives peace of mind to victims and allows the victims to escape too, knowing their dear pets are safe and sound."
How you can help
The service runs thanks to the support and commitment of volunteer foster carers who love and care for the dogs in their own homes. If you have experience caring for dogs, are at home most of the day and can commit to fostering for at least six months then we would love to hear from you – please get in touch with our friendly team.
Volunteer for the Freedom Project
Chrissie is a volunteer foster carer for the Freedom Project.
"I retired 6 years ago after 37 years working for the British Veterinary Association. Then I lost my own dog - a rescue staffie – so decided to give fostering a go.
"If you have the time and the resources I think it’s just the most wonderful thing to do. You get to have a dog without the downside as the Freedom Project pay for the food and the vet bills. The Freedom Project is a wonderful project and I would love to see more people involved. You don’t just get to help a dog; you get to help a whole family."
Watch Chrissie's story
If you are experiencing domestic abuse and need support and advice the National Domestic Violence Helpline is a free, 24 hour service run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge for people experiencing domestic abuse and anyone calling on their behalf. The helpline can give support and information over the phone and is staffed 24 hours a day by fully trained female support workers and volunteers.
Call 0808 2000 247 or visit www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk