Bedfordshire's PCC sets up emergency animal shelter scheme for victims of domestic abuse

The PCC ha set aside emergency funding to support victims who need respite care for their pets

Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has set up an emergency shelter scheme for victims of domestic abuse who are forced to stay because they do not want to leave a pet behind.

Kathryn Holloway has set aside emergency funding to support victims in Bedfordshire who need respite care for their pets.

She is working with the national cat care charity, Cats Protection, which has developed a scheme called ‘Paws Protect’ in other areas of the country to support victims of Domestic Abuse.

PCC Kathryn Holloway, police dog Finn and handler PC Dave Wardell

The Commissioner’s office has also been working with a Bedfordshire dog kennelling business to provide the same assurance to those who may need help to ensure that their dogs will be cared for in their time of urgent need.

She said: "The picture around Domestic Abuse makes it clear that some sadly need to leave their homes in this emergency and have been accessing the hotel and safe house accommodation that is being paid for with my £60k fund for this purpose, established at the very outset of lockdown.

"However, common sense dictates that, on some occasions, they are not leaving for their own safety because they cannot find alternative care for pets, which cannot, for example, be taken into many hotels or rented spaces.

"As a result, I’m delighted to launch the Emergency Pet Shelter project to provide that lifeline to those fleeing abuse, to provide emergency accommodation for their cats or dogs too."

The scheme can be accessed by Bedfordshire Police officers who encounter relevant cases while on front line duty.

All pets will be kept in secure premises and their whereabouts will remain confidential.

The temporary care scheme for cats and dogs will also be available for owners who have been admitted to hospital in relation to Covid-19 if they are refusing to leave home for this reason.

Mark Beazley, Director of Operations at Cats Protection, has seen at first hand how devastating the impact of Domestic Abuse can be on families, during his time as a police officer with Hampshire Constabulary.

He said: "Access to support services is essential for those who are trying to leave a violent relationship and for some it is made even harder as they cannot bear to lose their pets or put them at risk.

"In several recent studies of adults entering refuges for protection against Domestic Abuse, nearly half reported that their pets had been threatened, injured or killed by their abusers.

"With Domestic Abuse accounting for 15-25% of all violent crime and with the highest repeat victimisation of any crime, Paws Protect offers a vital service.

“We reduce the stress and pressure on these unfortunate victims and the suffering of their cats. It offers victims the chance to escape abuse, with the relief of knowing their cat will be well cared for by a volunteer foster carer until they are in a position to be reunited with them.

“I am extremely proud of the service that Paws Protect offers to victims of Domestic Abuse and I’m delighted that we have been able to develop the service into Bedfordshire. Paws Protect removes the barriers that families face when trying to flee Domestic Abuse and the need for a service that helps both animals and people is essential."

Victims can access the scheme by calling 101. In an emergency relating to Domestic Abuse, always call 999.

Front line officers will be aware of the support available, and will be able to assist victims to access the care for their pets.