Pet Refuge

What would you do if you have children and pets but you are living with domestic violence? This dilemma keeps many women in abusive relationships. But providing victims of domestic violence a temporary home for their pets, allows their owners to secure safety for themselves and their children. A one-time donation or ongoing monthly pledge can massively assist keep vulnerable pets and people safe.

According to Women’s Refuge research, New Zealand has the highest reported rate of family violence in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – which comprises 38 member countries). New Zealand also has the second highest rate of pet ownership in the world, with 64% of households home to at least one pet. Recent research has established that when women are at risk of domestic violence, so are pets.

Pet owners enjoy close and affectionate relationships with their companion animals, and this can be particularly so for many victims of domestic abuse. “The affection that victims hold for their pets is frequently exploited by intimate partners, who threaten or carry out abuse against victims’ pets as a way to demonstrate force and induce compliance,” according to the authors of the 2018 Women’s Refuge report.

“This abuse directed at victims’ pets both delays and in many cases precludes the victim’s attempts to leave the abuser, resulting in significant suffering by both the primary victim and their pet.”

Unfortunately, the role that pets unwittingly play as pawns of the abuser highlights the need for tailored services to be offered for them.

This is where Pet Refuge has stepped in. The New Zealand charity helps to remove the barrier for those in an abusive relationship to leave by giving their pets a safe, temporary home with the end goal of reuniting them with their family when they are in safe, secure housing.

Since opening on the outskirts of Auckland in July 2021, Pet Refuge [] has been a rural safe haven for more than 220 pets – including rabbits, birds, cats and dogs – providing 18,788 safe nights to the pets and families who were impacted by family violence. Of the 220-plus pets it has helped, almost 180 have been reunited with their owners, with a few going to loving forever homes when the option for the animal to return to its owner was not possible. With the shelter being full since earlier this year, Pet Refuge has had to turn to external boarding to hold pets waiting for a space to free up for them. There are currently 40 pets in this situation.

Working with the New Zealand Police, Women’s Refuge, Battered Women’s Trust, Family Action and other domestic violence agencies, Pet Refuge assists pets and pet owners via referrals, transporting pets to safe and confidential shelters around New Zealand.


You can help give a pet a safe bed for just $25 a month – and give families escaping domestic violence breathing space to find violence-free homes knowing their beloved pets are safe. Your donation will cover shelter expenses, such as 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 will be a vital part of the shelter. There are lots of ways to get involved [] to help, from a once-off donation, or the ongoing monthly safe bed pledge, to even volunteering your time and talents to help fundraise efforts.

To donate, visit or call 09 975 0850. To make a lasting difference to vulnerable pets and families in need, you can also provide a gift in your will.

For more information visit

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