RSPCA: Domestic abuse and pet welfare – can you help?

The RSPCA is currently inundated with a record number of pleas for help from families who are escaping domestic abuse and asking for someone to care for their pets.

Pet fosterers urgently sought

Families fleeing violence desperately need cats cared for

The charity runs a pet fostering service, PetRetreat, which looks after cats and dogs belonging to victims of domestic abuse. Many people feel unable to escape as moving into temporary accommodation often means they have to leave their animals behind.

Today (March 8) PetRetreat is launching an appeal for cat fosterers in Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire, South Wales and the Midlands.

PetRetreat manager Carolyn Southwell said: “We really need more people to come forward to foster cats in these areas so we can provide urgent help to people trapped in this harrowing situation.

“We get so many calls and we just don’t have enough foster homes. We simply cannot continue to help if we don’t find more fosterers to care for these very special cats.”

As a recent example of a family that found help through Pet Retreat; we were contacted by domestic violence outreach service after their client fled to a women’s refuge.

Unfortunately after only two weeks of being in refuge she returned to her abuser after he made threats against her cat Oliver, who she had been forced to leave behind with him.

After a month of going home she was attacked again by her husband and hospitalised and PetRetreat received a call, saying she would only leave and go into refuge if a foster home could be found for Oliver.

Oliver came into PetRetreat’s care for a period of six months, during this time he was neutered, vaccinated and microchipped at an RSPCA Centre and then he went to a foster home until his owner was re-housed and able to take him home.

The RSPCA has seen annual increases in the demand for the PetRetreat service and is handling nearly 100 calls a week from victims of domestic abuse who need someone to foster their pets so they can leave the situation.

If you think you could be a PetRetreat fosterer, please log onto


Notes to editors

•           The PetRetreat service handles over 100 calls each week – 5,000 calls each year – from families looking for information, advice and help.
•           Since its inception, PetRetreat has helped over 800 families and 1000 pets.
•           The charity’s PetRetreat service has helped hundreds of pets and their families to escape abuse since it began in 2002. It was the first animal welfare organisation to offer a specialist fostering service.
•           Each year, thousands of men, women and children are affected by domestic abuse. This can be physical, emotional, psychological or sexual.
•           It is estimated that one in four women and one in six men will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives, and partners or ex-partners kill, on average, more than two women each week in the UK.
•           Other charities that offer similar pet fostering services for people fleeing domestic abuse are: Dogs Trust Freedom Project (; Paws For Kids (; Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare (; Wood Green Liberty Project (

Case studies and images are available. Please contact the press office on 0300 123 0244/0288 or email

RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288  Fax: 0303 123 0099
Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 08448 222888 and ask for pager number 828825
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Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals registered charity no: 219099 Registered office: RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 9RS