Dogs Trust Freedom Project

Escrito por Nuria Querol i Viñas.

dogsTrustLogo Dogs Trust Freedom Project was set up in June 2004 to provide a free foster care service for dogs belonging to women fleeing from domestic violence in the Greater London Area.  We take referrals from women who are either going into a refuge or temporary/emergency accommodation.

The Freedom Project

For many women and children who leave violent relationships the options open to them regarding their pets are very limited.


Very few local authorities provide any facilities for kennelling pets and most refuges are unable to allow pets to stay.  Unless family or friends can help out most pets will either be left behind (to roam or possibly suffer at the hands of the abuser) or be put down.  This inevitably causes further distress and trauma for the family – particularly the children.



Free Foster Care Service

Dogs Trust Freedom Project was set up in June 2004 to provide a free foster care service for dogs belonging to women fleeing from domestic violence in the Greater London Area.  We take referrals from women who are either going into a refuge or temporary/emergency accommodation.

Dogs referred to the project are placed with volunteer foster carers until they can be reunited with their families.



We advertise our service throughout refuges and women’s projects across the Greater London area. In addition posters and information cards are sent to hospitals, citizen advice bureaux, surgeries and hospitals.

We also promote our service through the two main refuge organisations in the UK; Women’s Aid and Refuge. The main National Domestic Violence Helpline run jointly by both organisations also gives out details of the Freedom Project to callers in Greater London with pets.

Every week more and more referral agencies are becoming aware of the work we do and referring one of their clients to us for help.


Domestic Violence


Warning for women

If you are visiting this site as a victim of domestic violence please click here to see how to delete traces of your visit to this page.




Fleeing domestic violence?

If you are and have not already obtained advice you should phone the 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on:

0808 2000 247

Dogs in homes with domestic violence are often targets of abuse.  In several recent studies of women entering refuges for protection against domestic violence, nearly half reported that their pets had been threatened, injured, or killed by their partners.  Dogs Trust is a member of the The LINKS Group, a coalition to develop understanding of the link between domestic violence and mistreatment of animals as well as the problems faced by victims of domestic violence.

Please call The Freedom Project on 0800 298 9199.

Our office is open Monday to Friday from 9.00 to 5.00pm but there is an answer machine to leave messages out of hours.

Ensure that an abuser can't trace your internet activities

Below are some key warning points for you to read ensuring that you take the right steps to increase your safety when using the internet.


If an abuser has access to your email account, they may be able to read your incoming and outgoing mail. If you believe your account is secure, make sure you choose a password that an abuser will not be able to guess.
If an abuser sends you threatening or harassing e-mail messages, they may be printed and saved as evidence of this abuse.


History / cache file

If an abuser knows how to read your computer's history or cache file (automatically saved web pages and graphics), they may be able to see information you have viewed recently on the internet. You can clear your history or empty your cache file in your browser's settings.



Pull down Edit menu, select Preferences. Click on Navigator on choose 'Clear History'. Click on Advanced then select Cache. Click on "Clear Disk Cache".
On older versions of Netscape: Pull down Options menu. Select Network Options, Select Cache. Click on "Clear Disk Cache".


Internet Explorer

Pull down Tools menu, select Internet Options. On General page, under Temporary Internet Files , click on "Delete Files". Under History click on "Clear History."



Pull down Members menu, select Preferences. Click on WWW icon. Then select Advanced. Purge Cache.



Many browsers are set up to remember form entries, which could be a problem if you use a search engine to find the site. For example, if someone searches for 'domestic violence' on a search engine this entry is remembered by the browser. The next time somebody performs a search for a word beginning with the letter 'd' in that search engine, the word 'domestic violence' will pop up as a suggested entry.
In Internet Explorer you can get around this by clicking on Tools and selecting Internet Options.
Click on Content, select Auto Complete and finally, Clear forms.


This information may not completely hide your tracks. Many browser types have features that display recently visited sites. The safest way to find information on the internet, would be at a local library, a friend's house, or at work.

Women fleeing domestic violence with pets

Freedom Project


If you are fleeing domestic violence in the Greater London area then you will be able to access the Freedom Project.  We temporarily place your dog with an experienced volunteer foster carer who will care for him in their own home.  Your dog will be reunited with you when you are in a position to have them back.  During the foster placement we will provide all pet food and veterinary treatment free of charge.

"Knowing that my dog is being cared for by The Dogs Trust Freedom Project has made things a lot easier for me and my children. It has been a really stressful time for us, but being able to leave my violent partner and knowing my pet will be safe and cared for was a huge relief". - Freedom Project Client

How to access the service

If you need to use our service please telephone us or ask your refuge worker to contact us. These calls are totally confidential and you will talk to a trained female worker who can advise you on all your options. We will then send you a questionnaire to complete about your dog together with our legal agreement which you will need to sign before we can place your dog.

What happens next?

We will then try to place your dog in the most suitable foster home available.  Your dog will be collected from a safe location in the Greater London Area and not from where the abuse took place.

All our carers are experienced dog owners and your dog will be registered with a local vet.  Your dog will receive an overall health check and if necessary they will be vaccinated and treated for fleas and worms.  We will also neuter your dog, if required, at no cost to you (most foster carers will only look after a neutered pet).  Whilst in foster care your dog will be microchipped to Dogs Trust, registration details will be changed into your name when you reclaim your dog.

Referral agencies

In order to access our service, clients need to be referred through a refuge by their Advice/Outreach Worker.  We also take referrals from the Police, Social Services, Homeless Persons Units and other women’s support groups.


Dogs Trust works closely with Women’s Aid (we are Associate Members) and Refuge.

National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline

0808 2000 247
How to refer a client

Where possible we ask that refuges inform us as soon as they are aware of a client that might need help with pet fostering so that we have time to find a suitable foster carer.

We require written confirmation that the client is fleeing domestic violence and also a point of contact with telephone number. Due to demand on the service we can only take referrals from women who are going into either a refuge or emergency housing. 

Clients must keep us informed of their housing situation and give us at least 3 days notice before leaving the refuge. 

The client has to complete a detailed dog information form and sign a legal agreement before we can arrange collection of her dog.

We ask all refuges/referral agencies to inform us when their client is leaving before she actually leaves the area. If a client leaves the refuge without informing us for a period of more than 14 days, we will arrange to rehome their dog.

All information will be treated in the strictest confidence.


More information

If you are interested in finding out any further details regarding the project, would like some posters and information leaflets or if you have a client you think may need help with pet fostering please contact us at;

Freedom Project Co-ordinator   
Dogs Trust 
PO BOX 50208
London EC1V 7XP

Email Freedom

Volunteer foster carers

Volunteer foster carers play a crucial role in the Freedom Project by providing our foster dogs with a loving home, until their owners are able to have them back. Their commitment to the project and their flexibility are invaluable qualities that enable us to assist women in crisis that need their dog cared for at short notice.


Susan, one of our current foster carers comments;

“Definitely give it a go, it’s a fantastic opportunity to spend some time caring for a dog in the knowledge that you have helped a woman flee domestic violence”.

Interested in becoming a Foster Carer?

  • If so the following will need to apply to you;
  • Experience of owning/looking after a dog.
  • Available during the day (not leaving a foster dog for more than 4 hours).
  • Happy to take on any breed of dog and agree to hand it back when requested.
  • Be contactable during a placement.
  • Sign a legal agreement.


Foster Carers

All information concerning the client and the foster carer is confidential. The volunteer foster carer will not know the identity or the whereabouts of the dog owner and vice versa.  The owner is not able to visit the dog whilst it is in foster care but our staff send out regular updates on their pet’s wellbeing, together with photos.

Becoming a carer

Becoming a foster carer offers you the companionship and unconditional love that a dog can give, with the knowledge that you are  helping women, children and dogs escape domestic violence.

Every carer is different and accepted on their own merits. There are many reasons why people volunteer, some people want to foster because they have recently lost their own dog or are not in a position to have a permanent dog or because they feel the project is very worthwhile and want to help the women.  We need all kinds of people to foster.

As a carer there is no cost to you as Dogs Trust will cover all food and veterinary bills. We will also provide any necessary canine equipment i.e. bed, bowl, collar and lead.  If the dog shows any sign of behavioural problems whilst in your care we have trained advisers available to give advice.

Become a carer

We take on foster carers living in the Greater London area throughout the year, so if you are interested in becoming a foster carer for this worthwhile project please fill in the application form.  If you would like a paper copy please call us and we will be happy to send you out a pack.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Pet fostering services

List of useful contacts:

Dogs Trust

Rosanna Boylan
Freedom Project Co-ordinator
Dogs Trust
PO BOX 50208
London EC1V 7XP
Tel: 0800 298 9199
Fax: 020 7833 2830

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Environmental Animal Sanctuary and Education
15 Rectory Close
Hertfordshire AL9 6HG
Tel: 01707 261028

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Paws for Kids

PO Box 329
B16 5FT
Tel: 01204 698 999

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Pet Safe

Leicestershire Constabulary
Tel: 07903 588997

Pet Fostering Service Scotland

PO Box 6
Callander, Scotland, FK17 8XZ
Tel: 01877 331496

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We receive calls from people other than women fleeing domestic violence who need help with pet fostering. Please let us know if you know of any other pet fostering services available across the UK that we can add to our list.

Other fostering groups not specific to domestic violence are:

Animal Samaritans

PO Box 154
DA16 2WS

UK Registered Charity that re-homes ill-treated and unwanted animals in south-east London and north-west Kent. All prospective owners will have a home check and a follow up visit. Foster carers are available to provide temporary care until a suitable, permanent home can be found.

The Cinnamon Trust

10 Market Square
TR27 4HE
Tel.01736 757900

The Cinnamon Trust provides long term care for animals belonging to elderly pet owners who are going into hospital or moving to residential accommodation where they are unable to take their pets. The Trust also provides long term care for pets whose owners have died and for terminally ill pet owners.

Mayhew Animal Centre

Tel. 020 8969 7110

The Mayhew Animal Centre runs a service called the Pet Refuge Scheme where they provide foster care for dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs belonging to people who are unable to look after their pets due to emergencies such as having to go into hospital or being made temporarily homeless.

Case Studies


Case Studies

The dogs we look after……..


Harry’s owner called the Freedom Project direct (her Keyworker had passed her our number) as she had fled to a refuge with her 2 daughters to escape from her husband who had violently assaulted her on numerous occasions.   Harry had had to  go to her brother’s overnight as she was afraid her husband would hurt him as he knew how much she loved him.

I met his owner the next day in a Sainsbury’s car park where she handed over Harry and signed all the paperwork.  She was very upset about parting with him and he was very subdued.  We packed his all his belongings in the van and he calmly went into the kennel.  He never made a sound all the way to the foster carer’s house.   He was very quiet during the first few days and stayed in his indoor kennel but after a week of loving kindness from his foster carer he soon reserved his own sofa space and let his true personality shine.

Harry is a very bouncy greyhound and loves to chase foxes and cats.  His carers have had a lot of fun with him attempting to go to full speed whilst they are still on the end of the lead.  He enjoys squeaky balls and furry toys.

Harry loves nothing better than to be taken to the park where he can run free and fast.  He is well behaved and always returns on command.  After his long run he loves to sleep for the rest of the day.

Every month we send Harry’s owner up to date photos of Harry and is always delighted to have news of him.  She always says he is an important and much missed member of her family.  She is very grateful that he is being taken care of so well and can’t wait till the day when she will be reunited with him.

Lilly and Lola

Lilly and Lola were a very sad pair when we first collected them.  Their owner had had to flee in a panic after her partner had threatened had seriously assaulted her.  She took the first offer of a place in a refuge.   Lilly and Lola were left in the family home where they were kept shut in the back garden with only an only shed for shelter.  They had not been fed properly just the occasional scraps and they were surrounded by their own faeces.   Today they are lively, healthy and extremely active dogs who are enjoying their foster placement.

The carer tells me her teenage son is jealous of how much they can get away with compared to him!   Their foster mum takes them to the park every morning where they love to play tag and get as muddy as possible and given the chance will get their carer in the mud too!  Their owner is still in the refuge but is expecting an offer of housing very soon and is very much looking forward to being reunited with her beloved dogs.

The families we help…………….

Anna and her family

Anna had been experiencing domestic violence at the hands of her partner for 5 years and found it incredibly difficult to leave due to the fact she had four young children and a dog.  She didn’t want to separate the children from their beloved pet and she didn’t want to leave the dog with her partner – she wanted to go into a refuge and although she knew it would be fine to take the children she knew that they wouldn’t take the dog. She heard about the Freedom Project and called us up.  Within a couple of days we had been able to collect her dog and she was able to get into a refuge with the children.  Due to the size of her family it has been fairly difficult to find suitable housing but during the time her dog has been fostered through the Freedom Project we have kept her and her children up to date with the dogs’ progress. They have since found suitable accommodation and hope to be reunited very soon.

Barbara and her family

Barbara was in an incredibly violent situation and had managed to get an injunction against her partner. She was in a real crisis and needed to get away urgently so within 24 hours the Freedom Project staff were able to collect her dog so she could get away and into accommodation. She didn’t use the service for too long as the urgency was in getting her away to safety. Once she was settled we were able to reunite her with her dog.

Sarah and her family

Sarah called the Freedom Project after suffering domestic violence at the hands of her partner John for several years.  She and her four children were able to find temporary accommodation but unfortunately they couldn’t take Bob, their beloved Staffordshire Bull Terrier, with them.

Luckily Sarah found out about the Freedom Project through her local refuge.  The Freedom Project were quickly able to find a foster carer that was a perfect match so they collected Bob and took him to his new, temporary home with Ellie, his new foster carer. Bob soon settled in well with Ellie and after a few hours was making himself comfortable with her two cats.

In all Bob stayed with Ellie for four months. The Freedom Project made sure Sarah and her children knew all about what Bob was getting up to and were sent regular pictures that really helped to reassure them that Bob was doing great and gave them a chance to start a new, safer, life away from harm. Eventually Sarah and her children were rehoused and Freedom Project staff were able to reunite Bob with his family once more.

“I don’t even want to imagine what might have happened if we had left Bob when we went to the refuge. There was no way we could leave him behind and I really don’t know what we would have done without the Freedom Project,” said Sarah. “I would have had to give him up and the kids would have been heartbroken. It’s been unbelievably hard but now we have been reunited and can make a new start together.”

All names have been changed.


Freedom Project Greater London

June 1st 2004 to July 1st 2005 – Pilot Scheme


  • We have fostered 33 dogs (31 owners)
  • We have returned 19 dogs to their owners
  • We have received over 200 calls to our Freephone Number.  60 calls have turned into referrals with forms being sent to referral agencies or women direct.
  • From the 60 referrals 33 dogs have gone on to be fostered through the project.  14 dropped out after a placement was set up and 13 didn’t come back to us after the forms were sent out.
  • Out of the 200 calls 52% were from referral agencies, 38% from women direct and 10% from people interested in becoming foster carers.
  • We have 30 foster carers signed up to the project.


During the first year of the Freedom Project in Greater London we helped over 40 women fleeing domestic violence by looking after their pets.  For confidentially reasons (to protect both the foster carer and the client) we are unable to let the client have contact with her pet whilst in foster care.  However, we are aware how important it is for both the client and her family to receive pictures and updates during the placement.  This is evident from the notes we receive from clients.



Thank you so much for the pictures of Goldie and the note you sent me.  Words cannot express how grateful I am that such good care is being taken of him, he is an important member of our family and is much missed by myself and my children.  Please thank the carer’s for me.  Lots of Love Tracey


Thank you for the photos of Lucky, they mean so much to me as I miss her so much.  Thank you all for looking after her so well.  I can’t wait to have her back as part of the family once again - give her a kiss for me. Best wishes Marilyn


Just a note to say thank you for all your done for me and Shadow over the last few months.  I am so grateful that your offered me much needed help so quickly, so that I didn’t have to give up such a beloved pet.  If it hadn’t been for you and Shadow’s carers, I would still be living in that awful situation as I could of never given her up, so thank you again for giving me the chance to escape.  Love Sue


Thank you for everything that you have done for me if it wasn’t for everyones help at the Dogs Trust Freedom Project I wouldn’t have been able to keep Rosie and that would have broken my heart. I can’t thank you enough for all your help.
All my Love Sharon

The Links Group

Research shows that if there is evidence that an animal is being mistreated any children or vulnerable adults in the same household may also be at risk and vice versa.


Dogs Trust works closely with The Links Group, a coalition to develop understanding of the link between domestic violence and mistreatment of animals as well as the problems faced by victims of domestic violence.  Other members of The Links Group include Blue Cross, NSPCC, Women’s Aid, PDSA and RSPCA.

The group have produced a leaflet for professionals working with children, families or animals called   ‘Understanding the links - child abuse, animal abuse and domestic violence - Information for Professionals’.

Dogs Trust Freedom Project is part of the Links sub-group on pet fostering, along with six other fostering services for women fleeing domestic violence across the UK.  The sub-group was set up to develop fostering services to aid vulnerable adults, children and animals to escape domestic violent situations and to raise awareness of the protection and welfare of children & animals in violent domestic situations.

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