Dogs Trust urgently need foster carers in East Anglia to help people and their dogs fleeing domestic abuse

Dogs Trust Freedom Project, a pet fostering scheme, urgently needs foster carers in East Anglia to temporarily care for the dogs of survivors of domestic abuse, enabling their owners to flee to safety.   

We launched our 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 1880 people fleeing domestic abuse by fostering over 2,090 dogs.  

We expanded the project into East Anglia in 2020 and to date has helped 60 dogs, but we urgently need foster carers to support and continue this vital service. The East Anglia service runs 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.  

Laura Saunders, Freedom Project Regional Manager at Dogs Trust said: 

“Since launching the Freedom Project into East Anglia in 2020, we have already helped to foster 60 dogs to help them and their owner fleeing domestic abuse.  

“Alongside suffering physical abuse, we know that dogs are also often used by perpetrators as a means to coerce and control their partners. 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 40 fantastic volunteer foster carers in place across East Anglia but we urgently need the animal loving public of East Anglia 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, 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. 

Sharon** is a volunteer foster carer in Norfolk. She said:

“The most rewarding part of being a foster carer is that you are helping the dog, but also their human. It is really rewarding when your foster dog is on its way home; envisioning the excitement when they meet up again. I get excited for them; I know they are going to be beside themselves with joy! We talk about it when they have gone- you wonder how they are getting on back with their family, all the while knowing you have given them a loving home for a short time” 

If you think you can help or would like more information on the service, you can visit www.dogstrustfreedomproject.org.uk, call  0808 196 6240, or you can apply via our website via this link: https://www.moretodogstrust.org.uk/volunteer.  

 **Names have been changed to protect their anonymity