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Source: Pet Refuge

Pet Refuge is receiving an increasing number of calls from women sleeping in cars to keep their beloved pets safe, after fleeing domestic violence.

The Refuge receives calls for help daily, and in the past two weeks these have included a woman with four dogs, another with two dogs and another with one dog, all sleeping in their cars to protect their pets’ lives. 

They were desperate to keep their animals safe but couldn’t find a secure place that would accept pets, so Pet Refuge was able to offer support. This has renewed the charity’s fear for the safety of women and their pets this Christmas as the charity relies on donations to keep saying yes to pets and their families.

”The need is so huge, but we try hard to help every pet needing temporary shelter because of family violence.  To do this we have partnered with trusted external catteries and kennels until space becomes available at our shelter which has been at capacity for months,” says Pet Refuge Founder Julie Chapman. “ We fear we may need to turn pets away this Christmas. One day recently the refuge received calls to help seven pets that day – and a few days later a further nine pets.”

A Women’s Refuge survey in 2018 showed clearly that animal abuse is a tool used by abusers to assert and maintain power over victims. Since then, the prevalence of this type of abuse has only risen. New Zealand has horrifying rates of family violence in New Zealand and pets often bear the brunt of that. Over the last year Police have responded to 175,000 cases of family violence, one incident every three minutes.

“Women are putting themselves in dangerous situations because they need to leave violence, but also want to keep their pets safe. It is difficult to find emergency housing that will accept pets,” says Chapman.

“We receive calls daily from women in difficult and unsafe situations. Their pets are often their rocks and leaving them behind would put their lives in serious danger. Often, the pet has already been abused by the perpetrator and victims are terrified this abuse will continue or even elevate when they leave. This can be in the form of violence, or withholding vet care,  food or shelter,” she says.

“Our shelter is full and we are calling on the public to support us so we don’t have to turn pets away.  Working with external catteries and kennels, across New Zealand to house pets works well at the moment but it comes at a financial cost of $25 a day for each pet,” she says. “We urgently need to increase the boarding external space for Christmas and the New Year as we are limited right now to housing 17 cats or dogs outside of our shelter.

“We need people to get behind us so that we are able to do more to provide safety for pets offsite, as well as at our shelter,” Chapman says. “We do want to build a second shelter in the future, but it will take a number of  years  to complete, and in the meantime we are determined continue to say yes to anyone in need. Our purpose is help victims who delay leaving abuse because they have nowhere to take their animals, we need your help to continue doing that.”

To donate visit or call 09 975 0850 to donate what you can afford or join our monthly giving programme. $25 a month to give a pet a safe bed.


Pet Refuge is the brainchild of Julie Chapman, Founder and CEO of children’s charity KidsCan. Modelled on the RSPCA New South Wales’ successful domestic violence programme, Pet Refuge transports small animals from around New Zealand to the shelter and has a national network of safe farms to care for larger farm animals.  Shelter staff are qualified and trained to ensure the best care of animals, including expert measures to minimise stress.

Due to practicalities, women escaping family violence are usually unable to take their pets with them to safe houses. Pet Refuge has partnered with Women’s Refuge, Battered Women’s Trust, Shine, and Shakti to assist pets via referrals.