Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon is backing a pioneering project to train vets to help victims of domestic abuse.
The Domestic Abuse Veterinary Initiative (DAVI) has been developed by Scottish charity Medics Against Violence (MAV) together with Crimestoppers, the Links Group, OneKind, the Pet Fostering Service for Scotland and the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU). It will see vets trained to spot the signs of abuse in both animals and their owners and encourage victims to report to the police, support services or to give information about the abusers anonymously to Crimestoppers.
Domestic violence campaigner and OneKind supporter Alesha welcomed the new initiative, saying:
“The mistreatment of animals is something that should concern all of us. Individuals who hurt and neglect animals are often likely to hurt and neglect other people. Increasingly we hear about ever more terrible cases of abuse and neglect, and it is time not only for zero tolerance towards those who harm animals, but also for more initiatives to prevent this violence in the first place.”
DAVI follows on from the success of MAV’s domestic abuse dental initiative, which has so far seen around 500 dentists trained across Scotland.
MAV founder Dr Christine Goodall said:
“Like doctors and dentists, vets often build strong relationships with clients over years of visits. This makes them ideally placed to spot signs of abuse not only in an animal but also in their owner. Yet on the whole, like dentists, vets are unprepared for this situation. The training we are offering helps them take advantage of a “golden moment” to intervene and help.”
Research and clinical evidence increasingly suggests links between the abuse of children, vulnerable adults and animals.
Dr Freda Scott-Park chairman of the Links Group and British Veterinary Association past-President, said:
“Over the years we’ve seen a growing number of cases where animals have been used as a way of manipulating and controlling victims of domestic abuse. The threat or actual abuse of a pet can often prevent women from leaving situations of domestic abuse. By training vets to be aware of the signs of animal and domestic abuse, we can hopefully support those who are suffering towards getting help.”
Her remarks were backed by Libby Anderson, policy director at animal charity OneKind “Pets are part of many families and their welfare is closely linked with that of the people they share their lives with. Equally, we know they can be hurt or terrorised by the same abuser, and this is why the DAVI project, helping people and animals together, is so important.”
The initiative is supported by a poster, “Sharing a Secret?”, which highlights the fact that animals and humans can be victims of the same abuser. The poster, which will be sent to veterinary surgeries across Scotland, encourages people to report anonymously to Crimestoppers.
Kate Jackson, national manager for Crimestoppers Scotland, said:
“Very often people who are victims of domestic abuse or who have knowledge of it don’t speak up about it because of fear. Crimestoppers is a completely independent charity and is not part of the police and guarantees anonymity to those who call. If you have information about this type of violence, please call us anonymously on 0800 555 111 or give information anonymously online atwww.crimestoppers-uk.org No one will know you have called and your information could put a stop to it.”
Notes for editors:
DAVI (Domestic Abuse Veterinary Initiative) is a joint initiative by Medics Against Violence (MAV), Crimestoppers, the Links Group, OneKind, the Pet Fostering Service for Scotland and the Violence Reduction Unit. It will see vets trained to spot the signs of abuse in both animals and their owners and encourage victims to report to the police or support services or to give information about the abusers anonymously to Crimestoppers.
Medics Against Violence (MAV) is an anti-violence charity set up by three Scottish surgeons, Christine Goodall, Mark Devlin and David Koppel who decided it was time healthcare joined the campaign to reduce violence. All the medics who take part in MAV give their time for free. This is their third violence prevention initiative. To find out more go to www.medicsagainstviolence.org.uk
The Links Group aims to raise awareness of the links between the abuse of children, vulnerable adults and animals in order to encourage agencies to work together to prevent related cases going undetected. To find out more go towww.thelinksgroup.org.uk.
Crimestoppers is an independent charity dedicated to fighting crime across Scotland by providing an anonymous route to pass on information about crime. To find out more go to www.crimestoppersscotland.org.uOneKind is an Edinburgh based UK animal charity that aims to alter the way that animal welfare and protection services are perceived and delivered. To find out more go towww.onekind.org.
Pet Fostering Service Scotland has been helping provide temporary care for animals since 1985. Volunteer carers provide homes for pets whose owners have to give them up temporarily for a whole host of reasons. To find out more go towww.pfss.org.uk
The Scottish Violence Reduction Unit is a Scotland-wide policy / strategy group which looks at innovative ways to prevent and reduce all forms of violence. To find out more go to www.actiononviolence.org.uk
'Why I'm backing PetRetreat'
RSPCA supporter Alesha Dixon is urging more people to become PetRetreat fosterers.
Alesha has been passionate about the RSPCA's work for years and recently rehomed two RSPCA rescue dogs, including Daisy pictured left.
In her own words, this is why Alesha is backing PetRetreat.
'Animals are the silent victims'
Domestic violence is a traumatic experience which touches everyone in the affected family – including pets.
Animals are the silent and often forgotten victims of abuse. Not only do they have to live in the same household, but they can live in fear of what could happen to them should the abuser lash out on them as well.
As around half of households in the UK own a pet, it's not surprising that many families seeking refuge from domestic abuse have animals that need taking care of while they get settled.
'My mum was a victim of abuse'
Sadly, I was brought up in such a household as my mum was a victim of abuse.
It was so hard for me to see her go through such a harrowing situation and I felt very helpless.
Victims of domestic violence who have pets can feel unable to escape the abuse as they are worried about what could happen to their four-legged friends if they are left behind.
In addition, a lot of refuges and temporary accommodation do not allow pets, which means it's almost impossible to take them with you.
'PetRetreat cannot exist without fosterers'
PetRetreat removes this barrier by making sure the animals are well looked after in foster homes until the owner and animal are ready to be reunited.
But PetRetreat cannot exist without fosterers, so anyone who thinks they could open their hearts and homes to help foster cats and dogs should contact the RSPCA to see if they can help.
Or, help us publicise the scheme in any way you can – it could be a leaflet drop, a status update on Facebook or tweet on Twitter - so that more families affected by domestic abuse will know that there is help out there for people and their pets.