escape domestic abuse
Domestic Abuse

Local charity helping pet owners escape domestic abuse

Posted by
James Harbottle
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Local charity helping pet owners escape domestic abuseLocal charity helping pet owners escape domestic abuse

There are many ways in which a victim of domestic abuse may feel trapped in their own home, unable to escape from their abuser. There may be economic reasons preventing them from leaving, they may fear the consequences of leaving, or they may simply think that they have nowhere else to go.

They may also feel that they have to stay to look after a beloved pet, possibly their only true companion. Finding somewhere to take a pet can be very difficult, and they may fear that if they leave without the pet their abuser will not look after the pet, or will even take out their ‘revenge’ on the pet.

It is therefore excellent news that a charity operating in Devon and Cornwall is prepared to look after pets whose owners have been victims of abuse, thereby enabling the victims to escape their abusers.

The charity, Refuge4Pets, is the only service of its kind in Devon and Cornwall, and one of just four such services in the UK offering specialist pet fostering to support people escaping domestic abuse. The charity arranges for the pets to be cared for by foster families, until it is safe for them to be reunited with their owners.

Last year the charity, which was recently awarded over £240,000 of National Lottery funding, fostered 94 animals, including cats, dogs and other animals, such as rabbits and rats.


What is domestic abuse?Domestic Abuse Bill

It is important to understand just what domestic abuse is, and when you are a victim. We all know that physical violence constitutes abuse, but there is far more to it than that.

Last year the Government passed new legislation reforming the law on domestic abuse. The legislation included the first ever statutory definition of domestic abuse.

The definition says that behaviour is abusive if it consists of physical or sexual abuse; violent or threatening behaviour; controlling or coercive behaviour; economic abuse; or psychological, emotional or other abuse. It also does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.

Controlling or coercive behaviour includes such things as preventing the victim from seeing friends or family, and economic abuse means any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on the victim’s ability to acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or to obtain goods or services.

It is essential that this definition is properly understood, so that those subjected to these behaviours understand that they are victims of abuse.


Divorce meetingHow the law can help an abuse victim escape domestic abuse

The law can help a victim escape domestic abuse in many different ways.

For example, the victim can seek a court order, often referred to as an ‘injunction’, to protect themselves from abuse. Note that legal aid is available to cover applying for these orders.

Such orders take two main forms: non-molestation orders, which prohibit the abuser from molesting, harassing or pestering the victim, and occupation orders, which can require the abuser to vacate the home in which the parties lived.

Obviously, if the victim was forced to leave the home they may feel able to return if the court has ordered their abuser to leave.

However, sometimes the victim does not wish to return, perhaps because they fear that it is not safe to do so. If they own an interest in the home they may therefore need to realise that interest, so that they can provide themselves with permanent rehousing. The law provides ways in which they can do this, the exact method depending upon they were married to their abuser.

In short, no one should have to suffer domestic abuse, whatever form it takes. In the short-term they should be able to get away from their abuser, and in the longer term they should be able to take the necessary steps to protect themselves, and rebuild their lives.

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