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Dame Vera Baird supports North East domestic abuse project with Dogs Trust

17th October 2017

Dogs Trust is launching an innovative pet fostering scheme providing vital support for people fleeing domestic abuse in the North East, which Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird has given her full backing. The project comes after new figures reveal police in the region receive over 40 calls a day* related to domestic abuse.

The Freedom Project, run by Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, works by placing the dog at risk into the home of a volunteer foster carer who will care for them until they can be safely reunited with their loving families. Most refuges are unable to accept pets so this important scheme gives families peace of mind that their dog will be well cared for until they can be safely reunited with their owner.

This extension of the project to the North East region comes after police statistics reveal over 54,000 reported incidents of domestic violence in Durham since January 2014 and 30,000 incidents in Northumbria in the past year alone. In Cleveland, figures show there were 15,000 calls to police regarding domestic abuse last year.

The link between animal abuse and domestic violence is well established; perpetrators may threaten to harm or actually kill a beloved pet in order to intimidate their partner into obedience and silence. Many pet owners remain in a violent domestic situation simply for fear of what might happen to their pet if they flee without it.

Dogs Trust’s Freedom Project, which is the only scheme of its kind in the North East, has been running in Greater London, Yorkshire and Hertfordshire for 12 years and launched in Essex last year. During that time has helped more than 800 dogs and owners to escape from abusive situations by fostering 1,100 dogs. With the North East consistently reporting increased incidences of domestic abuse year-on-year, the charity hopes that by extending the project to this area they will be able to help even more families and pets at risk.

Dame Vera Baird DBE QC, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner adds, “I’m delighted to be able to fund and support a cause that’s so close to my heart.  Acts or threats of animal cruelty often coerce, control and intimidate victims to be silent about their abuse. One study has shown that in a third of cases, pets acted as a barrier to prevent victims from leaving the home or forcing them to return. To be able to offer pets a temporary safe-haven through the Freedom Project will no doubt have a positive long-term impact for the animal and those fleeing situations of domestic violence.”

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