The Dogs Trust is launching a service offering a safe haven not only for the victims of domestic violence, but also for their dogs.
The Freedom Project is based on research that indicates there is a link between domestic violence and abuse of animals: violent men sometimes threaten to harm or kill pets to intimidate their partners. Some women even stay in dangerous situations for fear of what might happen to their pets if they leave them behind with a violent abuser.
Under the new project, abused women will be housed in refuges while their pets are placed with volunteer foster carers, who look after the animals until they can be reunited.
Anonymity is guaranteed, with the owner's identity and whereabouts kept a secret from the carer.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, welcomed the new scheme. She said: "One woman I met told me that her husband often used the dog as a weapon of control and, in a rage, threw their beloved pet off the balcony of their high-rise flat.
"With the Freedom Project only a phone call away, women and children can now be sure their pets can also be rescued."