NEW SCHEME TO SUPPORT PET OWNERS AFFECTED BY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
RSPCA WA is trialing a new scheme offering practical support to pet owners who are living in a domestic violence household.
Through a network of dedicated foster carers, RSPCA WA will temporarily care for victims’ pets while they find alternative housing, and is calling for those interested in becoming a foster carer for the scheme to register their interest - to support the scheme’s viability and see it established as a permanent, long-term service.
“For some people, the fear of leaving their pets in an abusive household is enough to stop them from leaving,” said Nat Foster, Community Outreach Coordinator, RSPCA WA.
“Pets are often used by abusers to intimidate and threaten their victims, and many can’t and won’t prioritise their own safety and wellbeing above their pets, so they stay,” Ms Foster added.
“Our new scheme aims to remove this worry for the victim. We can take their pets out of the situation so that they can focus on their safety and wellbeing without having to worry about whether or not their pet will be ok,” Ms Foster continued.
RSPCA WA recognised the need for scheme based on the experiences of its Inspectors who regularly attend call outs to homes where domestic violence is taking place. Former Inspector and current Community Outreach Coordinator, Nat Foster, prioritised the scheme having witnessed first-hand how many people could benefit from the service.
The success of the trial will depend on RSPCA WA recruiting enough foster carers to meet demand, though it is unknown at present how many people will make use of the service.
For safety reasons, and to minimise stress for the animals, all pets that come into RSPCA WA’s care under the scheme will be placed straight into a safe loving home where they cannot be traced by the abuser. The scheme will be managed with strict confidentiality, and RSPCA WA will liaise between pet owners and foster carers to provide regular updates and photos to keep owners informed about their pet’s wellbeing while in foster care.
“I think it’s important that we keep victims informed of how their pets are doing and maintain communication with them while they are making alternative living arrangements to provide reassurance and give them peace of mind,” said Ms Foster.
Ms Foster expects the majority of pets to enter the scheme will be cats, dogs and other companion animals who are part of a household’s day-to-day activities.
Foster carers will be provided with everything they need to look after the animals in their care, including food, bedding, bowls and vet care. Home checks will be conducted before a foster care application is approved, and existing pets should be well-socialised, sterilised, and up-to-date with vaccinations and flea and worming treatments.
The scheme will run on a month-by-month basis, with the average placement expected to last between three and six months.
An animal behaviourist will also be available to provide support for settling animals into their foster homes.
Those interested in foster caring for the scheme can apply here.
Those interested in using the service to temporarily care for their pets should call 1300 CRUELTY (1300 2783 589).
Notes to editor:
Labor has committed to working ‘with the RSPCA, Local Government Authorities and animal havens to establish an easy entry pathway for victims’ pets to be safely housed away from perpetrators of domestic and family violence’, if elected in the 2017 State Election – more information here.