Petplan Charitable Trust has donated £20,000 to help support Dogs Trust’s Freedom Project.

dogs trust logoFreedom Project is a pet fostering service created to support people and their animal companions fleeing domestic violence. The grant has funded a new vehicle for the project team in East Anglia.

“Prior to expanding the Freedom Project to East Anglia (Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire), there was no pet fostering provision for dog owners across the region,” explains Bryony Mills, Trust and Foundations Team Manager at Dogs Trust.

“Through our working relationships with local domestic abuse organisations such as Cambridge Women’s Aid, Lighthouse Women’s Aid and Leeway Domestic Abuse Service, we identified East Anglia as a region with a high level of need for the service.”

spaniel in back of freedom project van

Domestic abuse victims in rural areas are often isolated and unsupported

According to Mills, research in 2019 by The National Rural Crime Network revealed that many victims of domestic abuse in rural areas are often very isolated, unsupported, and unprotected. This study found that domestic abuse lasts, on average, 25% longer in most rural areas. What’s more, it was clear that those living in more remote settings were at  greater risk of harm but had less access to support services.

“We couldn’t provide our Freedom Project service in East Anglia without each member of staff having an assigned, unmarked vehicle, allowing them to perform their duties safely and discreetly and across a large rural service region,” explains Mills.

white dog in dogs trust freedom project van“During normal working hours, direct operational staff spend an average 70% of their time carrying out activities that require a vehicle, be it collecting dogs that have been referred to the service; placing dogs in foster homes or kennels for short periods; carrying out regular volunteer/placement monitoring visits; vet visits; returning foster dogs to owners at the end of their placement; attending meetings and events to promote the service; and, travelling to other regions to provide assistance there, depending on demand.”

Since launching the Freedom Project in East Anglia, 28 families and 39 dogs have been supported to flee domestic abuse in the region.

“I was trying to get a refuge place but I was worried about my dog”

One of those people was Ella and her dog Socks.

“When I had to use the Freedom Project, I was married with children,” says Ella. “My ex was at home all the time and things were getting bad, it was becoming impossible to live with him. I was trying to get a refuge place, but I was worried about my dog, Socks, as I couldn’t leave him behind. Women’s Aid told me about the Freedom Project and said that they may be able to help us.a young woman strokes her little white dog

“Before leaving, my ex would only allow our dog in one room and he would often frighten him. Although I was upset to see Socks go into foster care, I saw him jump into the van and there was a new toy in there waiting for him.

“It was lovely seeing the updates of how he was doing and receiving the photos of him would brighten any bad day.

“The Freedom Project is helping so many people”

“When we were reunited it was amazing to have our dog home again. My children were waiting at the window all day and watching each car that went past. Socks came back so happy and had been really well looked after, they provided everything I needed and made the whole thing so much easier. It is such a great project and is helping so many people.”

With PPCT’s support in helping to establish the Freedom Project in East Anglia, Dogs Trust is now looking at further developing the project across the UK.

dogs trust worker putting white dog into freedom project van“Our ambition is to make the Freedom Project available to anyone who needs it, no matter where they are in the UK. At the end of last year, we marked the 2,000th dog fostered through the Freedom Project since we began. This sobering milestone demonstrates there is still very much a need for our service,” says Mills.

“We remain incredibly grateful to the Trustees of the Petplan Charitable Trust for your incredibly generous gift of £20,000 towards a vehicle for our Freedom Project team in East Anglia.”

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