Appeal for foster carers in East Anglia to help people and their dogs fleeing domestic abuse

Dogs Trust Freedom Project, a pet fostering scheme run by the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, has today launched an appeal to animal-lovers in East Anglia to temporarily care for the dogs of survivors of domestic abuse, enabling their owners to flee to safety.

Dogs Trust launched its Freedom Project in 2004, offering a lifeline for dog owners who are escaping from domestic abuse. The Freedom Project provides foster homes for dogs and enables survivors to access safe accommodation without the fear of what may happen to their dog if they cannot take them with them. 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. Dogs Trust research showed that almost half (49%) of professionals working in the sector are aware of domestic abuse cases where the pet has been killed. To date, the Freedom Project has helped over 1,400 people fleeing domestic abuse by fostering over 1,600 dogs.

Dogs Trust is currently expanding the project into East Anglia and urgently needs foster carers to support this vital service. The East Anglia service is set to run across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Alongside already operating in Essex, this will mean that Dogs Trust can offer full coverage of the Freedom Project in the East of England.

Sarah Rowe, Freedom Project Coordinator for East Anglia at Dogs Trust said:

"It has become clear that a dedicated pet fostering service is needed in East Anglia to support people and their pets fleeing domestic abuse. By establishing a specialist pet fostering service in this area, we can help dog owners in East Anglia find refuge away from their abusive perpetrator, without worrying what will happen to their beloved pet.

"To do this we urgently need the animal loving public of East Anglia to come forward to volunteer as foster carers. As lockdown restrictions began to lift, we saw demand for our services increase and in August we fostered a record number of dogs on the project. It is more important than ever that we can continue to provide our services and we urgently need volunteers to help us support people and their pets when they need it most."

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, have their own garden or access to a communal garden, and be able to commit to fostering a dog for at least 6 months.

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. Additional measures have also been put in place during the current pandemic to ensure the safety of volunteers, staff, and dogs.

If you think you can help or would like more information on the service, you can visit Dogs Trust Freedom Project, call 0808 196 6240, or you can apply via our website.