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Concerns For Pets And Owners Suffering Abuse In Lockdown

Pet Refuge reunites first pets as owners find safety

Pet Refuge, New Zealand’s first shelter dedicated to pets affected by family violence, is urging victims of abuse to reach out for help despite the lockdown. The shelter, which opened its doors earlier this month, is still accepting animals from within Auckland under alert level 4. Staff are working with Police and family violence agencies to collect pets. Pet Refuge is currently caring for 13 pets from around New Zealand. Nationwide pickups will resume as alert levels allow.

“We know that family violence escalates under lockdown, and with it pet abuse, as pressures rise and perpetrators lash out. Closed doors with volatile abusers lead to particularly vulnerable victims and animals,” Pet Refuge founder Julie Chapman says.

"We are here to help. We’re still taking animals from within Auckland under alert level 4, adhering to strict Covid-19 regulations. We know a lockdown can make victims feel trapped, but please reach out for help with your pets when you can do so safely.”

“Those outside Auckland should contact Police or family violence agencies to connect with local rescues and shelters, who may be able to offer short-term help until Pet Refuge can resume nationwide pickups.”

Just before lockdown, the first animals cared for by Pet Refuge were reunited with their owners in safety. The shelter has been built to help victims who delayed leaving abuse by providing temporary accommodation for their pets, because they had nowhere to take them.

“Reuniting the first pets with their owners in safety is a significant and emotional milestone for Pet Refuge,” Chapman says. “The two dogs were with us for a week while their owners escaped abuse. It’s amazing to have played a part in getting two families to safety within our first few weeks of operation. They were incredibly grateful to be able to get to safety knowing their pets were so well cared for.”

Pet Refuge has had 15 animals through its doors so far, from Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Christchurch. The animals are referred from Police and family violence agencies including Women’s Refuge, Shine and Family Action Network.

The shelter was built after research showed victims were staying in abusive situations because they had nowhere to take their pets. A Women’s Refuge survey of victims who had experienced animal abuse found 53% delayed leaving out of fear for their animals’ safety. 73% would have found it easier to leave if there was a shelter offering temporary accommodation for their animals. The research detailed horrifying stories of pets being harmed or threatened as a way for perpetrators to control their victims.

“Pets can be the only solace a victim of domestic violence has,” Chapman says. “Perpetrators often threaten or harm the animals, because they know how devastating that is for victims. It’s another way to control them, and stop them from leaving. We aim to remove that barrier so victims and their pets can find the safety they deserve.”

The purpose-built shelter can house up to 75 animals - dogs, cats, birds, and other small pets - at any given time. Animals can stay for as long as is needed, cared for by a team of experts. Larger animals including horses, cows, sheep, goats will be cared for via a network of regional safe farms.

Pet Refuge needs on-going support from the public to pay for operating costs. Kiwis can help by making a one-off donation, or sign up to the Safe Beds for Pets™ monthly giving programme. Funds help with bedding, heating, transport, medications, vet healthcare, enrichment toys, animal behavioural therapy, and the cost of expert animal carers, case workers and support staff.

Every dollar donated today (Friday 27th) will be doubled by a generous supporter – up to $10,000. (The business is a long-standing supporter of Pet Refuge and wants to give anonymously.)

Donate at www.petrefuge.org.nz or call 09 975 0850.

If you are in immediate danger, please call 111. If you do not speak, your call is directed to a recorded message. You will be asked to press 55 if you require emergency assistance.

The Women’s Refuge crisis line is 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843.

For help with an animal call Pet Refuge 0800 PET REFUGE / 0800 738 733 843 or email help@petrefuge.org.nz

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