- Those needing to flee domestic abuse can now ensure their pets are safe too, thanks to a new animal fostering scheme in Gloucestershire
- The project is the first of its kind in the county
- It’s run by Cotswold Dogs and Cats Home with support from Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Support Service (GDASS). It has been partially funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner
- Leaving pets behind is one of the many barriers victims of domestic abuse face when trying to leave
- Tackling Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) is one of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s policing priorities.
- Today marks the start of 16 Days of Action – a 16 day national campaign to highlight issues surrounding domestic abuse and sexual violence around the UK.
Imagine finding the bravery to leave an abusive relationship, but then facing the heart-breaking decision to leave behind a beloved pet to suffer the same abuse.
That’s where a new Pet Fostering scheme, partly funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire, is hoping to make a real difference. Operated by Cotswold Dogs and Cats Home with referrals from partners at Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Support Service (GDASS), the scheme has successfully piloted the care of eight animals – allowing their owners to safely leave their abusive situations.
“They might be fleeing to somewhere where they can’t take their pet with them” says Kelly, a GDASS support worker. “It might be very quickly that they have to go to a refuge or temporary accommodation where they can’t take pets. So, they’re torn between fleeing to keep themselves safe and leaving their pet behind in an abusive situation.”
The pets are assessed by the veterinary team at Cotswold Dogs and Cats Home, before being settled in with fully-checked pet fosterers. Fosterers welcome pets into their home until a time that they can safely return to their owners.
Lisa is a pet fosterer. Along with her family, she welcomed a dog into their home for a number of months while its owner was supported by GDASS. “I just felt that if there was something we could do to ease the challenges that family was facing, if we could just take one bit of stress away: so she would know her beloved pet would be cared for. It was a nice feeling to be able to support another family.
“If I were in that situation, I’d hope someone would step in and help me.”
The Pet Fostering scheme has been awarded £10,000 by The Commissioner’s Fund – a pot of money set aside by Police and Crime Commissioner, Chris Nelson from the policing budget. This fund is reserved for projects supporting one of the PCC’s six policing priorities. However, this funding runs until March 2024, and the early success of the pilot suggests that more funding and pet fosterers are needed to meet demand.
Amy Souster is Operations manager at Cotswold Dogs and Cats Home: “We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve had funding from The Commissioner’s Fund to pilot this scheme, but we’re looking to expand the number of animals we can support. We think around 50 animals per year could be in need of our services and the costs vary depending on animal’s health.
“We cover the costs of any operations they might need, specialist medication whilst they’re in foster care and of course their food, so the costs can mount up quickly.”
A video about the project has been released to mark the start of #16DaysOfAction – a 16 day national campaign to highlight issues surrounding domestic abuse and sexual violence around the UK.
For more information about becoming a volunteer for the Pet Fostering scheme, please contact cotswoldsdogsandcatshome.org.uk.