New research from Women's Refuge reveals a huge number of women delay leaving abusive relationships because they fear what will happen to their pets. This week, as part of a three-day series, we announced the launch of the first Pet Refuge, a service that will remove that barrier for women looking to escape domestic violence.

A major fundraiser to fit out a shelter that will house animals affected by domestic violence while their owners leave abusers has reached more than $87,000 in donations.

On Monday the Herald revealed the first national Pet Refuge is currently being built in the Auckland area.

KidsCan founder Julie Chapman is behind the initiative and used family money to buy land and construct the building for the shelter.

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She is now trying to raise $250,000 to fit the shelter out with everything the animals will need from bedding and enclosures to play areas, toys, exercise equipment and health supplies.

An artist impression of the exterior of the Pet Refuge. Construction work started at the site this week, beginning with earthworks. Image/Pet Refuge
An artist impression of the exterior of the Pet Refuge. Construction work started at the site this week, beginning with earthworks. Image/Pet Refuge

As of this evening more than $52,000 had been donated via a Pledge Me crowdfunding donation page.

A further $35,000 was raised at the official launch of Pet Refuge on Monday night - the result of a live auction.

Auction items including a dinner for 10 at top Auckland restaurant Ostro, a weekend getaway to Eagle's Nest luxury retreat in Russell and a painting by local artist Olivia Bezett.

The Bezett piece, depicting animals, went for $26,000.

The auction funds will be added to the Pledge Me account, meaning the grand total raised at this point is $87,000

The shelter came as a result of new Women's Refuge research that showed hundreds of victims were staying in violent relationships every year because they did not want to leave their pets.

The research was based on a survey of nearly 1000 domestic violence victims who had experienced a partner abusing or threatening a pet.

Just over 50 per cent of those surveyed delayed leaving their partner because of their pets and 41 per cent said they or their children had been made to watch their pet or another animal being harmed by their partner.

The abuse described was horrendous - animals punched, kicked, strangled, thrown, drowned, stabbed, put in microwaves, run over; often while victims watched on, powerless to help them.

Julie Chapman with one of her eight rescue cats. Photograph/Pet Refuge
Julie Chapman with one of her eight rescue cats. Photograph/Pet Refuge

Chapman said leaving pets behind was a barrier for women and men escaping domestic violence.

The aim of the shelter was to remove that barrier.

"The whole reason for doing this is to help women and men who are in these situations be able to get out and create a safe place for their pets," she said.

New Zealand's first shelter dedicated to housing pets affected by family violence is being built.

Pet Refuge will provide a temporary safe haven for pets, while their owners escape abuse. We need your help.

To donate to the shelter build visit: http://pldg.me/petrefuge

If you're in danger now:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Pet Refuge petrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz

PET REFUGE: THE SERIES

MONDAY

TUESDAY

WEDNESDAY

A look inside New Zealand's first Pet Refuge