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Dogs Trust appeals for dog foster carers in Wales to support survivors of domestic abuse

DOGS Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, is launching its specialist dog fostering service in Wales and urgently needs foster carers 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.

Joanne Jackson, Freedom Project Regional Manager for Wales, said:

“It has become clear that a dedicated pet fostering service is needed in Wales 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 Wales find refuge away from their abusive perpetrator, without worrying what will happen to their beloved pet.

“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, coerce and control their partners.

“Each week we will receive a call from someone who is escaping domestic abuse, but they feel they are unable to leave their home until they know their pet will be safe too. As many refuges are unable to accept pets, our confidential dog fostering service provides survivors with a lifeline, enabling them to flee to safety knowing that their dog will also be safe and loved until they can be reunited with them. We couldn’t run this life-saving service without our incredible network of volunteer foster carers, who open up their homes and hearts to care for these dogs, knowing that they are not only helping a dog in need, but also directly supporting a family to escape abuse and be able to move on with their lives.

“Fostering comes with many benefits, from encouraging you to keep active and meet other people in your community, through to providing you with company and a waggy tail to wake up to in the morning. On top of this, all the dog’s expenses are covered, and you have the added bonus of knowing you are supporting both a dog and their family get to safety.”

The team are 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 and be able to commit to fostering a dog for at least six months, although holiday cover can be provided. All pet food and the cost of veterinary treatment are covered by Dogs Trust.

Sharon** is a volunteer foster carer for the Freedom Project. 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”

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.

To find out more about the Freedom Project and to apply to become a foster carer please visit www.dogstrustfreedomproject.org.uk, call 0300 373 0677 or e-mail freedomproject@dogstrust.org.uk

**Names have been changed to protect their anonymit

Dogs Trust Freedom Project is an innovative pet fostering scheme already running in Greater London & the South East, East Anglia, Yorkshire, the North East, the North West & Scotland, providing vital help for people fleeing domestic abuse and seeking refuge or temporary accommodation that can’t accept pets. Many people are unable to escape domestic abuse, simply for fear of what might happen to their pets if they flee without them.

The scheme works by temporarily placing the dog with a volunteer foster carer who will care for that dog in their own home until they can be safely reunited with their owner:

· During the foster placement the Freedom Project will cover the cost of pet food and veterinary treatment.

· Total anonymity is assured, dogs will not be fostered in the area where the owner is from and the carer who fosters the dog will not know who the owner is or where they live.

· Freedom Project staff provide help and support and each placement is monitored on a regular basis.

· Owners receive updates on how their pet is doing whilst in foster care, reassuring them that they are being loved and well cared for until they are in a position to have them back.

About Dogs Trust

Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity and normally cares for around 14,000 dogs across its network of 21 rehoming centres in the UK and one in Dublin. Dogs Trust has a non-destruction policy and will never put a healthy dog to sleep. The charity also focuses its efforts on understanding dogs and sharing that knowledge with the wider public to prevent problem behaviours that can result in relinquishment or abandonment. We are working towards the day when all dogs can enjoy a happy life, free from the threat of unnecessary destruction.

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