Cats Protection Inverurie
Foster care for pets lets victims of abuse escape to new life


MARGARET endured beatings for the sake of her dog, while Tracey suffered sex abuse rather than let her cats die.

Such women have written a disturbing new chapter in the old story of domestic violence, according to new research, which reveals that 94 per cent of abused Scottish women with pets will not leave their partners because they fear for their animals.

And those who do leave often go back for the same reason.

The UK’s first study into the phenomenon led to the creation of a unique organisation which puts animals in "foster" care while their mistresses rebuild their lives.

It is a "black hole" that had to be filled, according to Elaine Henley, who conducted the pilot study for Women’s Aid with Dr Debbie Goodwin of Southampton University’s school of psychology.

Ms Henley, a masters degree student in animal behaviour at the university, launched the Canine Fostering Service (CFS), which has assisted 14 Ayrshire women.

She now wants to extend the scheme. She said: "There is a huge need. CFS is unique and it has to grow. The situation is apparently worse in Scotland than anywhere else.

"If we can remove their fear, women have a better chance - and that has proved to the case, which is why we need more foster homes."

CFS has placed dogs, cats, goldfish and even a lizard.

The previous research into the syndrome was conducted in the United States. Ms Henley and Dr Goodwin did their research in Scotland because of Ms Henley’s roots.

They found that 94 per cent of abused women were afraid to leave, and in 88 per cent of cases where a woman was abused, her pet also suffered.

Abusers bargained by involving the pets. "‘Leave me and I’ll kill the dog’ was a common horror story," said Ms Henley.

One woman, Margaret, said: "He said he would kill my dogs and would kick them unconscious." Angela, 26, added: "My children witnessed my kitten being dashed on a wall." Another woman, Tracey, was raped, but could not leave her cat behind.

"It was the one loving thing I had," she said.

Ms Henley added: "Women and children can be helped, but an animal is another matter.

"The feedback from the women helped to prove that when fear is removed they can rebuild their lives.

"Now we need more foster homes," she stressed.

• If you could look after a pet for the average period of two weeks to two months, call CFS on 07789 112347.