The Freedom Project was first launched in 2004, in response to growing evidence of the link between human and animal abuse. Since then, the project and the team’s knowledge has continued to expand, and today, research is one of the driving forces behind what we do.
Through our work supporting survivors of domestic abuse, we have realised that sadly there are often patterns in the cases we work with. Many survivors accessing the Freedom Project have told us that they would not have left their pets behind to get to safety. Professionals we work alongside have repeatedly informed us that there have been multiple cases they are aware of whereby a perpetrator has used a pet to coerce and control a survivor. We have seen first hand the impact the abuse can have on the dogs.
We have also seen first hand how much these dogs mean to their owners. They offer comfort and companionship through incredibly challenging situations. They are a source of warmth and love. For many survivors we work with on the Freedom Project, their dog is their lifeline.
After 15 years of having these conversations and witnessing these impacts, we wanted to better understand the scale of abuse against pets within domestic abuse. So we created a UK-wide survey and approached professionals working on the frontline in supporting survivors of domestic abuse. Our findings were chilling.
49% of professionals working in the sector are aware of domestic abuse cases where the pet has been killed. In addition to the physical abuse that pets may suffer, 97% of professionals said that they are also often used as a means of controlling and coercing someone experiencing domestic abuse.
9 out of 10 professionals also said that some survivors will not leave their home without knowing their pet would be safe.
These figures highlight the need for the Freedom Project. It is a vital service that offers a lifeline to survivors who would otherwise not leave their pet behind. We hope there will be a day when perpetrators can no longer carry out acts and campaigns of abuse. We hope there will be a day when no one lives in fear in their own home. But until that day arrives, we will be here to support survivors and their pets, and help to maintain their incredible bond.
Our other findings showed that:
· 89% of professionals were aware of domestic abuse cases where pets had also been abused
· 97% of professionals believed that threats to pets are used as a tool to attempt to coerce and control someone
· 89% of professionals knew of cases where pets had been used as a tool for emotional abuse
· 59% of professionals knew of cases where pets, or an owner's ability to care for a pet, had been impacted by economic abuse