The RSPCA is asking victims of domestic abuse to avoid scoring an own goal by not escaping the violence through fear for their pets, H&C has learned.
The animal welfare charity’s PetRetreat service offers pet fostering, advice and information for both men and women fleeing domestic abuse in England and Wales.
PetRetreat looks after people’s adult pets while they are in temporary accommodation or a refuge which does not allow animals. It aims to remove the obstacle of a commitment such as a pet which can prevent people from escaping domestic violence.
Since its introduction in 2002, this vital service has helped more than 800 families and their animals. Ahead of this summer’s football, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) released figures that showed reports of domestic violence rose by up 31 per cent on match days during the 2006 World Cup. Authorities fear a repeat of such shocking statistics during this year’s tournament which got underway last weekend.
Carolyn Southwell, RSPCA’s PetRetreat manager said: “Sadly, studies have shown that people stay in abusive relationships for longer if they don’t have anywhere to take their pets, which puts both themselves and their animals at risk of a serious or even fatal injury.
“Projects like PetRetreat help to give people more options if they find themselves in this terrible situation because we believe everyone, including pets, has the right to live safely within their own homes.”
ACPO has already issued a warning to offenders that violent behaviour will not be tolerated. Leading officer DCC Carmel Napier said: “There’s no excuse for domestic violence. We want people to enjoy the World Cup and that includes ensuring that people are free from the fear of violence.”
During England games throughout the 2006 World Cup, there was an average of a 25 per cent rise in domestic violence reports – with one in four offenders found to be under the influence of alcohol.
Carolyn added: “The rise in domestic violence is not the fault of football - it is the fault of violent people who take any opportunity to be abusive. Domestic abuse is a cowardly crime which cannot be excused by alcohol consumption or heightened emotions and we want to make sure that the victims are able to come forward without fear of what might happen to pets which they would otherwise have to leave behind.”
Women’s Aid, the national domestic violence charity, has backed the PetRetreat service. The charity’s chief executive Nicola Harwin CBE said: “At Women’s Aid, we know that pets can play a part in the decision to stay with an abusive partner rather than go into refuge accommodation. Much loved family pets can be the target of abuse to intimidate or hurt victims of domestic abuse and their children. The fear that their pets will be harmed in their absence, possibly even killed, can lead victims to stay or hold on for longer.”
The RSPCA would love to hear from people with the time, experience and patience to foster cats and dogs cared for through the Pet Retreat service. People are needed throughout the country and especially in Devon, Somerset, South Wales, the Midlands and the North of England.
For more information, help or advice contact Pet Retreat in confidence on 0300 123 8278, email [email protected] or log onto the web link below.