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New Zealand’s only refuge for pets of domestic violence victims running at capacity

It's only been just over a year since New Zealand's first pet refuge opened, but plans are already underway for another centre to meet increasing demand.

Pet Refuge - the brainchild of KidsCan founder Julie Chapman which opened in July, 2021, takes in pets of domestic violence victims. So far well over 220 animals have moved into the centre, and around 200 have been reunited with their owners or moved into other forever homes, when being reunited wasn't an option, usually while their owners look for rental accommodation which will accept pets.

There have been dogs, cats, horses, rabbits and birds. They come from homes that their owners needed to leave to escape from abusive partners. They couldn't risk leaving their pets in the house and couldn't take with them as most refuges and many rentals will not allow pets.

Pet Refuge is critical to them being able to escape. Some have fled to nearby parks with their animals in their arms, and call Pet Refuge desperately pleading for the shelter to help. Sometimes women are lying in a hospital bed with horrific injuries inflicted upon them but refuse treatment until they know their pets are OK.

Pets are family after all, founder and animal lover Julie Chapman says.

Before Pet Refuge opened, there no-one who would take pets in and keep them temporarily until their families had found accommodation which allowed pets. People would stay in abusive situation, and pets would die or be injured. A Women’s Refuge survey about pet abuse and family violence found 23 percent of respondents had a pet killed and 53 percent definitely delayed leaving.

“I always knew a pet refuge was needed, but I didn't expect demand to be so high,” she says.

"We have literally had clients that have waited years to leave and have said that the only reason they left is that we provided somewhere for their pet to go."

Dogs and other animals typically only stay a few weeks or months but some stay much longer while their owners search for accommodation.

Chapman says many dogs arrived scared and shut down - they had been kicked and hit, and some had experienced horrific abuse. “It is all about control, to hurt women, they hurt their pets.”

“Helping families escape violence is one of the most rewarding aspects of founding Pet Refuge. One of the hardest is hearing about and seeing the extent of abuse families and pets are subject to: it’s way worse than I would ever have thought or expected.”

Most pets need veterinary appointments, and 20 percent need specialist care - sometimes they haven't been to a vet in years, and some have had historic injuries that have never been treated.

The shelter is based in Auckland but takes animals in from throughout the country.

Shelter manager Nikki Marchant-Ludlow tells the pets' humans to think of it as if the pets are going on a holiday.

While at the shelter they receive all the necessary care they need, including a good diet and health care, but they also receive therapy, have playdates with other animals, time in the paddock and sometimes even go out shopping with shelter staff.

There’s no iron bars or cages or anything like that. It’s a place where dogs can destress.

The shelter is struggling to keep up with demand and had reached capacity in recent times, and sadly that demand is increasing.

If, like us, you believe that no one should have to live with violence, please consider joining Pet Refuge's promise to protect pets and enable their loved ones to escape abuse.

Or you could leave a gift in your will to make a lasting difference to vulnerable pets and families in need.

Contact Pet Refuge to get more information on making your love for animals, your legacy.


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