Charity dedicated to helping animal lovers escape domestic abuse by providing foster care to victim’s pets.

Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy – and when pets are involved it can be even trickier. Many victims feel even more trapped by worries about finding a home that can accommodate their pets or fears their animals could be harmed if they’re left behind.

That’s why the work done by Mary Wakeham and her charity Refuge4Pets is so important. The charity is dedicated to helping animal lovers escape domestic abuse by providing foster care to victim’s pets. 

It is one of just four services in the UK offering specialist pet fostering to support those escaping domestic abuse and the only service of its kind in Devon and Cornwall. The small team offers a free and confidential service and supplies everything people need for their animals, including veterinary treatment, pet food and bedding. 

Mary set up the service in 2017 and used her own experience of suffering domestic abuse to shape the services she offers. As she explains, helping people take care of their pets is vital.

“The vast majority of victim-survivors who escape domestic abuse are unable to take animals with them into emergency accommodation,” she explains. 

“This can serve as a barrier to people getting the support and safety they need. If you are a survivor of domestic abuse, with no money, your children in tow and with animals, it is almost impossible to escape.” 

Mary added that people wanting to leave an abusive situation could also be hampered by the lack of private rental properties available to pet owners and the current housing crisis.  So far, Refuge4Pets has helped over 250 individuals and families escape domestic abuse by fostering nearly 500 animals – mostly cats and dogs, but also horses, snakes, rabbits and birds.

Mary says being honoured with an award means everything – and she hopes it will raise even more awareness of the difficulties facing those fleeing abuse.

She says: “I’m overwhelmed really – it’s a real honour to know that what we do is valued. There are so many people dealing help – not just here in Devon and Cornwall, but all across the UK.”