Scottish Minister for Equality visits Dogs Trust domestic abuse service in Scotland

Christina McKelvie, Scottish Minister for Older People and Equalities recently met with representatives from the UK’s largest animal welfare charity, Dogs Trust, in a bid to find out more about the charity’s work to support dog owners affected by domestic abuse. Dogs Trust’s Freedom Project, which launched in Scotland this year, is an innovative pet fostering scheme providing vital help for people fleeing domestic abuse and seeking refuge.

According to research conducted by Dogs Trust, nine in 10 professionals working in the domestic abuse sector in Scotland have seen cases where a pet has also been abused, stating that some survivors will not leave their home without knowing their pet would be safe.

Ashley Szafranek, Dogs Trust Freedom Project Coordinator for Scotland said:

“We are really grateful to the Minister for spending time with us today and learning all about the Project; and we look forward to exploring ways in which we can work together in the future. On her visit the Minister met our Freedom Project team and learnt all about how pets are used as a barrier against those fleeing domestic abuse; they are often used by perpetrators as a way of coercing and controlling their partners, and a recent survey by Dogs Trust found that 97% of professionals working in the sector believe that pets are used as a means to coerce and control.

“Because many refuges are unable to accept dogs, the Freedom Project gives pet owners the opportunity to escape abuse, safe in the knowledge that their dogs will also be safe and well cared for. In order to effectively run this service, we need lots of foster carers and welcome interest from willing supporters who can help us continue this life-saving work.”

Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie said:

“As part of the 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Abuse, my visit to Dogs Trust’s Freedom Project has been really beneficial. 

“Perpetrators often use coercive tactics such as threatening children and dogs in order to remain in control of their victim. This project offers a lifeline to people when they need it most. It is a fantastic service and my chat with the team has shown they fully understand the complex dynamics of coercive and controlling behaviour within abusive relationships, so that when victims need their help, they know exactly what needs to be done and how to do it quickly and in the safest manner. 

“We must continue to raise awareness of domestic abuse as a wider societal issue, to make sure interventions are robust and to hold perpetrators to account for their actions.” 

Although it launched in Scotland this year, the Freedom Project has been operating in England since 2004 and now covers 29 counties. The service has helped 1,473 dogs and 1,128 people and, in the last year alone in Scotland the service has already fostered 49 dogs and reunited 29 with their owners.

If you would to support Dogs Trust’s Freedom Project or find out more information about the service, please visit: Alternatively contact [email protected] or call 0808 169 4315.