Bedfordshire survivors of domestic abuse seek sanctuary in Cats Protection


Survivors of domestic abuse in Bedfordshire can continue to benefit from Cats Protection’s Paws Protect service during the COVID-19 pandemic

One of the many reasons people experiencing domestic abuse can find it hard to leave is the thought of leaving their pets behind. Pets are not allowed in temporary accommodation or refuges, leaving owners with an impossible choice.

Cats Protection’s Paws Protect service is run by an experienced, female-only team who already provide respite for people fleeing domestic abuse across the south east.

The free and confidential service places cats into carefully matched foster homes, so owners can leave for safety with the peace of mind that their beloved cats are safe. Cats are looked after by a loving volunteer foster home until they can be reunited with their owner when they are safe again.

Figures show that Paws Protect is responding to a clear need. In 2019, the service took 346 referrals and fostered 112 cats. This meant that 62 families were able to flee domestic abuse to safety.

During lockdown the need continues, with 78 referrals and 17 cats taken into care to help nine families flee from abusive homes (period: 24 March to 17 June).

Rose Abram, Paws Protect Manager, said: “When people experience domestic abuse, they face multiple barriers in leaving their situation. At Paws Protect, we aim to remove one of those barriers by ensuring owners know their cats can be looked after while they are in refuge, to enable them and their family to get to safety.”

“Many of the people we work with at Paws Protect say they wouldn’t leave the abusive relationship until they knew there was a safe place for their cat to go, for fear of what the perpetrator would do to their beloved pet.”

“With domestic abuse rates rising under lockdown measures, we want people to be aware that we are here to help with their cats if they choose, or are able, to leave.”

The service has the support of Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway. She said: “The current picture around Domestic Abuse makes it clear that some sadly need to leave their homes during this pandemic but can be reluctant to do so for fear of the perpetrator harming a loved family pet.”

People helped by the confidential service have been clear in their support and need for the service. One woman said: “The main concern for me when making the decision to go into refuge was leaving my cat behind.

“The service allowed me to start a new life and know that the most important things to me were safe and taken care of. I could not have progressed as far as I have without the help of Paws Protect.”

Many people who have used the service feel great relief when their cats are returned them in the safety of their new homes.

“From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I’ve got my best friend back, curled up on my lap. It’s quite an emotional reunion after all we’ve been through – and it means the world to me that I can look after her again. The handover today was so lovely and friendly too – I was nervous about it all, so thank you for your kindness. I truly can’t express how grateful I am for the service you provide. Thank you again. You’re all wonderful.”

“It has meant the world to me that after such a horrific time that they were looked after and that everything has been done to ensure that they were returned to me. Thank you so much.”

Cats Protection’s Paws Protect is a much needed service. It has continued to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, with stringent safety measures in place to protect staff, owners and volunteers.

Paws Protect (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm) on 0345 260 1280 / [email protected].