top of page

Why don’t they just leave?

By Sheryll Fitzpatrick.

Whitianga Social Services is partnering with Pet Refuge to raise funds to help women and children leave violent relationships while knowing that their pets are safe and cared for. Pets are often the hidden victims of family violence.

“People say, “Why don’t they just leave?” But how can they leave when they have nowhere for their pets to go? The time when a woman leaves a violent relationship is the most dangerous time of all and this is when most family violence deaths occur.

The reason Social Services is supporting Pet Refuge is because Pet Refuge deals with violence towards animals and Social Services deals with violence affecting families, whanau, adults, and children. There is a correlation.

I think it was the founder of the RSPCA in England who said that “unless we have respect for animals, we will never have respect for humans,” and this has always resonated with me.

Cruelty to animals is common in domestic violence. People who use violence will often threaten, injure, or even kill a pet to control family members and the impact this has on children seeing their beloved pets being hurt, has long lasting impacts. Pet Refuge helps by removing the barriers to leaving by giving these pets a safe temporary home with the end goal of reuniting the pets with the family once the family has re-located.

In 2018 Women’s Refuge carried out research of women whose partners had abused or threatened to abuse their pets and found the following:

• 22% of children had witnessed their pets being abused.

• 23% had an animal killed by their partner.

• 53% delayed leaving family violence out of fear for their pet’s safety.

• 73% would have found it easier to leave if there was a shelter offering temporary care for their pets.

The Pet Refuge shelter houses up to 75 animals- dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, and it has been designed to give these animals comfort and security. The location of the shelter is kept confidential to protect the animals. Each year the shelter houses up to 300 pets.

Larger animals including horses, cows, sheep, goats are cared for via a confidential network of regional safe farms.

Pet Refuge has a lovely supply of goods that can be purchased at our Op Shop, 15 Coghill Street, Whitianga and 100% of all goods purchased go to Pet Refuge.

So far, in the last two months, from the collection of monies from the Op Shop, we have been able to assist Pet Refuge with 31 nights’ stay. A bed costs $25.00 a night and includes a safe place to sleep at night, warmth, bedding, enrichment and exercise, transport, vet healthcare, animal behaviour therapy, and the cost of expert animal carers and case workers who are a vital part of the shelter.

These animals have often been abused and are traumatised.

Pet Refuge works with the New Zealand Police, Women’s Refuge, and other family violence agencies to assist pets.

If you, your children, or pets are in immediate danger of abuse, ring 111.

Women’s Refuge can be contacted via their emergency 0800 number 733 843 and Pet Refuge through their 0800 number 738 733 843.

Anybody needing assistance can also contact our staff at Social Services in Cook Drive Whitianga.

We will assist in any way we can.

Caption: Sheryll and rescue cat, Plonka.

bottom of page