I would like, briefly, to write about an excellent and specialist service provided by Cats Protection in partnership with Dogs Trust. It operates in Greater London, Hertfordshire and Yorkshire. It is called the Dogs Trust Freedom Project. [Note to international visitors: this is a UK based initiative].

We hear a lot about domestic violence. It is usually, although not always, the man who is violent towards the woman. There may be a cat and/or a dog in the family. The violence may well extend to the family’s companion animal. Indeed, it may start with the companion animal. We read countless, sad and quite shocking stories about cats being killed by the husband or boyfriend as a way of hurting the woman in addition to hurting the woman.

Often the woman is unable to escape the abusive relationship. The barrier to leaving is psychological.

Eventually, with advice and support the woman is often able to flee from the abuse but another barrier is the cat or dog. What happens to them? There are a number of women’s refuges providing an excellent service housing women who have urgently left the family home but often they are unable to also house the companion animal. Local authorities often can’t help.

This is where the Dogs Trust Freedom Project steps in. Cats Protection can foster the cats of these dysfunctional households while the abused woman sorts out more permanent housing. Dogs Trust does the same for the dogs.

This is a really good idea. It is really nice to see the cat and dog brought into the equation, be made inclusive of the solution when finding a way forward under the very difficult situations that domestic violence creates.

Confidentiality is vital to protect the woman under these circumstances and the same goes for the cat. Abusive men can also be obsessive in their desire to hurt their partner and/or the companion animal. They can track down the woman.

Accordingly, the cat fosterer is not provided with any information about the cat’s owner and vice versa. The cat’s owner cannot visit her cat while being fostered. This is to protect both of them. However, updating information is provided to the owner by Cats Protection.

As a retired family law (and general law) solicitor I was frequently asked to apply for injunctions to protect abused women. I know how often it happens. It is comforting to know that this service exists.

Note: the photo was set up and is not the result of domestic violence. Link to original.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • I think this is a wonderful idea. Every Easter Babz collects chocolate eggs at her workplace for the children of the women in local refuges and we often think about the pets of the family. It would be good if this scheme was countrywide, worldwide in fact.
    The women and their children are protected by secrecy of the whereabouts of the refuges and rightly so and it's right that the pets should be protected too. Far safer for them to be in care for a while than left behind with the abusive partner when the woman and children flee.

  • This is a great idea - I'm sure it's not uncommon that only the animal ends up getting abused - somebody takes it out on the animal rather than the person.

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