4 Foster Care Pet Charities For Domestic Abuse Victims: Who Are They?

How to flee a relationship when you have pets

Domestic abuse is a widespread issue that affects people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. It is a pattern of behaviour used by one person, often a narcissist, to gain power and control over another in an intimate relationship. Abusers may use your pets as a way to exert control over you, with harm and threats of killing them if you leave the relationship. Further abuse against pets is financial control over the abused, refusing provisions to allow for veterinary care, giving medication, or not feeding the pet, causing more emotional stress.

Written with authority

People experiencing domestic abuse, regardless of their gender, often find themselves hesitant to leave because of concerns for their pets. This dilemma becomes even more complicated when shelters or safe houses are unable to accommodate animals. In such situations, victims are left with a difficult decision: stay in an abusive environment to protect their pets or leave without them and potentially endanger their beloved companions. If a victim doesn’t have access to a secure place that is pet-friendly, such as with family or friends, they may feel trapped with limited options. This heartbreaking reality highlights the urgent need for more resources and support systems that address the unique challenges faced by survivors of domestic abuse and their animal companions.

“Around nine in 10 households that suffer from domestic violence have said that animals were also abused by the perpetrators, new research has revealed. The research, carried out by Dr Mary Wakeham, found that in one in ten (12 per cent) households where domestic abuse was taking place, the pet was killed. It also indicated that in 94 per cent of homes where an animal was given as a gift, the animals were then abused and sometimes killed by the perpetrator, showing that pets have been used to control and coerce victims.”

The Independent

How can a victim leave an abusive relationship and protect a pet?

Dogs are abused or killed in homes with domestic violence.
Pets are abused or killed in homes with domestic violence.

“A recent survey that we carried out found that more than nine in 10 domestic abuse professionals (95%)4 said that they are aware of cases where survivors will not leave their home without knowing their pet would also be safe.”

Dogs Trust – Freedom Project survey

To tackle this problem, a number of animal charities in the UK have launched pet fostering initiatives aimed at offering temporary shelter for the animals of domestic abuse survivors. These programs are specifically crafted to ensure the wellbeing and security of various types of pets while their owners seek refuge in a safe environment. It’s crucial to recognize that pets themselves can be victims of domestic abuse or may become targets of violence in such situations. By providing a temporary foster home for these animals, these initiatives not only offer them protection and care but also alleviate a significant barrier for survivors seeking safety, ensuring that they can leave abusive situations without having to worry about the safety of their beloved companions.

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Pet fostering services available for pets in domestic abuse

“Kimberly, a survivor supported by the Freedom Project, had her dogs Penny and Rusty fostered after she suffered abuse from a former partner. She said: “My ex-partner’s mentally & physically controlling behaviour became gradually worse as time went on – I became totally dependent on him and it also impacted my dogs. If I reacted, he would know how to get to me even more – through my dogs. I just knew I had to get out. I moved out, took my dogs to two separate family members and went into the women’s refuge – that’s where I heard about the Freedom Project who fostered my two babies.


Kimberly – The Independent

“We raise awareness of the link between the abuse of people and animals …”

The Links Group

Cats Protection’s Lifeline (previously Paws Protect)

Cats Protection foster service for those escaping domestic abuse
Image by Hartono Subagio on Pixabay

“The service is completely free to owners.”

Cats Protection

Lifeline is operated by women-only group that deals with every step to ensure the safety of your pet/s.

  • Cats must be aged from 6 months old
  • Professional referrals include agencies, family or friends, a housing worker, the police, or a refuge
  • Self-referral allowed
  • There are forms to complete. One is a Client Service Agreement for your details and the service obligation (i.e. your cat being taken to a centre for a health check and then into a foster home)
  • The charity will pay for veterinary care, food, neutered, microchipping, vaccination, bowls, litter and trays
  • Your cat/s will be fostered in someone’s home
  • Fostering is for 5 months but is extended case by a case basis
  • You will not be able to visit your cat whilst in Lifeline care
  • You will receive monthly updates
  • Your cat will remain Indoors unless you give authorisation through the charity that your cat can go outside
  • Areas where Lifeline operate are London, Herts, Sussex, Kent, Surrey, Essex, Bedfordshire, Berkshire
  • Please get in touch with the staff if you have a kitten in need of fostering
  • Between 2004 to 2017, Cats Protection and Dogs Trust worked together for multi-home animals. This is no longer available, so please be prepared that your pets may be separated for a while

Visit Lifeline

Professional referral and self-referral into Lifeline

Register as a Lifeline Volunteer and foster a pet

Tel: 0345 260 1280

Endeavour Project

Rabbits are welcomed into foster care scheme

“…but in homes where there is violence and abuse, pets are often threatened, injured or killed by violent perpetrators to maintain control over their partners and children.”


Not everyone has a cat or dog. As well as offering a foster care service to cats, Endeavour provides safety for reptiles, fish, and small furries. They have partnered with Dog’s Trust Freedom Project for canine fostering.

  • Pets must be 6 months or over
  • Endeavour will contact your refuge about the placement of your pet
  • Veterinary care is provided where necessary
  • You cannot visit your pet when in foster care
  • You will receive updates
  • You will need to supply all accessories, medication, vaccination certificate, microchip details, toys, bed, treats, and details about your pet’s temperament
  • If your pet is not vaccinated, please inform Endeavour 
  • Endeavour does not list any maximum time for foster care or areas they operate
  • Confidentiality and anonymity give safety to your pet
  • Do you not have a pet carrier? Put the kitty into a pillowcase, and Endeavour will have a carrier for transportation after the transfer
  • Trained all-female staff 
  • Breed Specific’: Endeavour suggests you look up breed-specific rescues

Visit the Endeavour Project

Referral Service

Register as an Endeavour Foster Carer. Fosterers are needed in the North West of England (August 2022)

Tel: 01204 394 842

Dogs Trust – Freedom Project

“As many refuges aren’t able to accept pets, we understand that you might feel unable to leave your home until you know your dog is somewhere safe too. We place your dog with a loving foster carer for an average of 6-9 months, so you can access a refuge or emergency housing, knowing your dog will be cared for until you’re ready to have them back with you.”

Dogs Trust

Dog’s Trust Freedom Project is one charity that offers foster care for dogs. The charity published the article Domestic Abuse and Pets – How Animals are Used and Abused. Dogs Trust and Cats Protection are no longer partnered so if you have a dog and cat, you must apply directly to Cats Protection.

  • Dogs must be from 8 months of age
  • Dogs Trust requires written confirmation that you have fled a domestic abuse environment and are in a refuge
  • There are forms to complete.  Like Cats Protection, there is a Service Agreement and another form to complete about your dog. These details will help match your dog to a suitable foster home. 
  • The charity will pay for neutering, microchipping, vaccination, food, toys, treats and a dog bed
  • Your dog will be fostered in a private home
  • The maximum fostering period is up to 6 months, with a rehome option if applicable. Foster extensions are case by case.
  • You will not be allowed to visit your dog whilst in foster care – this is safety for all concerned
  • Your dog will be collected from you at an agreed location and not from the home you are fleeing from
  • You will receive monthly updates, which include photographs
  • Areas covered are Yorkshire, north and east of England, Hertfordshire, Essex, west and east Sussex, Bedfordshire, Greater London, Suffolk, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Kent
  • If you have a cat, please get in touch with Cats Protection’s Lifeline
  • If you have a puppy, please get in touch with the charity direct
  • Dogs Trust will not offer foster care if your canine is a guard dog or a dog kennelled outside.
  • Dogs Trust will not offer foster care for dogs registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs, banned under the Dangerous Dog Act, or listed dogs. These include Japanese Tosa, Fila Braziliero, Dogo Argentino, Pit Bull Terrier. Owners of any bull breed cross or full bull breed need to supply a range of recent photographs of their dog. 
  • Dogs showing aggression towards people will be turned down for foster care
  • A full travel and veterinary history are required if your dog has travelled outside the U.K.; this may include blood tests

Visit Freedom Project

Watch the video: Dogs Trust Freedom Project, victims and survivors (contains upsetting pet content)

Register as a Freedom Project Foster Carer

Refer Your Dog

Tel: Greater London and Home Counties 0800 298 9199

Te:  Yorkshire, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and County Durham 0800 083 4322

Tel: Scotland 0800 169 4315

Related articles:


Horses, donkeys, ponies can be affected by domestic violence too
Horses, donkeys, and ponies can be affected by domestic violence.

“Animals are the silent victims of domestic abuse. They are threatened, yelled at, beaten, kicked and in some cases killed by the perpetrator to coerce, control and entrap victim-survivors in abusive relationships”


Refuge4Pets will offer foster care for cats, dogs, reptiles, birds, fish and rabbits. They will also help place guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, livestock, horses and exotics.

  • Minimum age not indicated
  • Foster care is offered from a single night up to 6 months
  • Safe transfer into the charity’s care
  • The service covers all routine veterinary bills, food, bedding and toys.
  • Health issues during the foster period will be discussed, and an appropriate care plan will be discussed with you.  A veterinary professional is included if there are serious issues.
  • Your pet will be fostered in a home
  • A horse will be housed in a stables
  • You will not have contact with your pet
  • Updates and photos are provided
  • They will not share your location or your pet’s location.
  • Strict confidentiality offered
  • The charity is based in Devon and Cornwall, so you must live or flee from either of these countie.  Foster homes are throughout the south-west
  • Microchip details will be updated, or they will microchip your pet

Visit Refuge4Pets

Telephone referral in the first instance

Register as a Refuge4Pets Foster Carer

Tel: 0300 4000 121

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I write for an East Yorkshire newspaper distributed along the Yorkshire coast and inland.


The reason I write and make YouTube videos is to help you and your pets from my experiences, and to take you through a journey of Green Living from worm composting and bokashi.

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