Domestic violence survivor backs Bolton centre’s support of charity

A SURVIVOR of domestic violence who volunteers for the charity which helped her family and their pets escape abuse has praised a Bolton shopping centre for backing the cause so close to her heart.

Crompton Place Shopping Centre has declared Bolton-based Paws For Kids as its official charity and will be working closely with this worthy cause over the coming months to raise its profile and offer support with fundraising at the centre.

Someone who knows the value of the unique service provided by Paws For Kids is mum-of-four Anika Drew who strongly believes fears over the future of a much-loved family pet can be a terrible barrier to victims and their children leaving an abusive partner.

She is among the many helped by Paws For Kids, which aims to relieve the pressure for families caught in the cycle of domestic violence by providing support services to women and children, reducing the long-term effects of experiencing domestic abuse and organising the temporary fostering of pets belonging to these families to enable them to seek safe refuge.

The charity steps in to help families find a new and much safer life while giving pets a short-term home with a volunteer animal-loving family, with the aim of re-uniting them as soon as possible.

Anika said: “The backing by Crompton Place Shopping Centre  means the charity will be able to fund more placements for pets, and so ensure women and children can escape to a place of safety, secure in the knowledge their much-loved pet is being well-cared for.”

Malcolm Angus, Crompton Place Manager, said: “Paws For Kids has been to the shopping centre before to do collections but we have become so impressed with the charity and what they do, that we felt it was right to make it more official.

“Our aim will be to support them in any way we can with fundraising and also to help them raise more awareness of the very touching and good work that they do for families in and around Bolton.

“We also intend to support them with displays at the centre which will create a more lasting way of letting people know what a fantastic charity they are.”

Paws For Kids helped Anika, then 24, move into an emergency refuge with her two children, aged two and six at the time, when her home situation became unsafe.

And they managed to find a temporary home for her dog Marley, a former racing greyhound, plus three cats, a pair of ferrets and two rats, until Anika could set up a safe house for everybody, three months later.

The 30-year-old now lives on a 15-acre smallholding and has begun to provide a foster home for dogs through the charity, as a way of saying thanks. And, with the charity’s support, she has also built a good relationship with her ex-partner, and even started a university course.

Anika said: “Pets are often caught up a violent situation and women stay because there’s nowhere for the animal to go. If they leave the pet behind, the partner may use it as a way of getting her to come back to the house, or threaten violence to the pet – even killing it. Or he may simply not feed it, or abandon it.

“If a family friend or relative tries to help out by looking after the pet, it can put them in danger, as it gives the abusive partner a reason to visit their house, or to try and find out where the woman and children are staying.

“My situation happened very quickly, I had to leave almost straight away. But for many women in an abusive relationship, the move to a refuge for them and their children – and a foster home for their pet – can be arranged in advance, so they can prepare everything for leaving.

“The foster home is anonymous, so nobody except the charity knows where the pet is staying. It’s a real weight off your shoulders in that situation, knowing your pet is safe, and allows you to concentrate on sorting life for you and your children.”

Anika loves to see her foster dogs curled up in front of the fire at her 400-year-old renovated stone farmhouse, high in the hills.

Now with a new partner, Sebastian, and mum to two-year-old Olivia, John, three, Jasmine, eight, and Xander, 12, Anika  also finds time to care for cows, horses, chickens and geese, plus her three dogs and cats.

She’s presently fostering a Golden Labrador, who loves playing football with his new house-mates on her small-holding, though she’s conscious that he will be soon going back to his own family.

She said: “We take photos of the dogs we are fostering so Paws For Kids can pass them on the owners. It’s very helpful for children to see that their pet is happy, and having a fun break, but knowing they will be back together again.

“In abusive situations, caring for a pet is therapeutic – a child can tell their dog, or their cat, secrets and fears.

“I’ve had Labradors and an Alsatian staying with me – the charity matches the pet to the foster home, to make sure they are ok with cats, or chickens. Most of the foster dogs have never come across a cow or horse before, but they soon get used to them. They love having the chance to play around the farm, just taking themselves off to play with the other dogs. It’s like a holiday for them.”

Donations to the charity help pay towards the volunteers’ pet food bill – though Anika says having an extra doggie mouth to feed is no problem, as there’s so many already. Where possible, the charity tries to keep to the same feed as the pet is used to.

The charity also arranges for the pets who come into its care to be neutered, as often the owners have been unable to afford to do this, and to avoid having to re-home unplanned kittens and puppies.

The foster pet is also registered with a vet near its new temporary home, in case of any medical problems.

Anika added: “I am sad to see the dogs go, as you do grow to love them in the weeks or months they are with you. But when they go it’s a positive thing, because it means a family is back together again.”

Carole Marsden, Project Manager for Paws For Kids, said: “Paws for Kids helps local people and their pets escape violence and abuse. We rely heavily on the generosity of the local community and individuals who donate what they can to help people and their beloved pets build a brighter future.

“We are delighted that Crompton Place has chosen us as its charity of the year, not only will this help to raise awareness of the charity’s work, it will also raise awareness of the help available in Bolton for families experiencing domestic violence.

“This valuable support from Crompton Place will also provide a wonderful opportunity for us to recruit volunteer pet foster carers enabling us to help even more women and children escape domestic abuse

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