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.

More than $28,000 has been donated to help start up a shelter that will house pets affected by domestic violence.

Today the Herald revealed the first national Pet Refuge is currently being built.

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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However $250,000 is need to complete the fit out - animal beds and enclosures, play areas, toys and medical supplies.

A Pledge Me fundraising page was launched this morning and as of tonight $28,000 had been donated by the public.

Support from the community is also growing.

In addition to the PledgeMe fundraiser, more than $35,000 was collected during an auction at the official launch of Pet Refuge tonight.

Many people commented on the fundraising site saying it was a positive and needed service.

"Amazing campaign - thank you for setting up this much-needed support," said one donor.

Another said: "I hope you can succeed with this great initiative. Violence to people or pets is never okay."

"What a wonderful idea. I read the article in today's Herald and appreciate how many people remain in an abusive relationship because they fear to leave their loved pets. I wish the organisation every success in this venture," said a third.

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.

READ MORE: Pet Refuge: 'I'd sooner put up with the domestic violence than leave my dog'

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.

"I can't stand domestic violence and I can't stand animal abuse."

Chapman has experienced an abusive relationship in her past and is a longtime animal lover.

She currently has eight rescue cats and three dogs - and would have more if she could.

"There are a lot of different things going on which prevent women from leaving domestic violence and not wanting to leave their animals behind is one of them," she said.

"Our position is, let's remove the barrier so we can make it easier for them to leave.

"Pets become like family and quite frankly you wouldn't leave anyone in your family behind, would you?"

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

The day my stepfather killed, burned our pets

Why domestic violence victims don't 'just leave'

My husband bent a fire poker across my dog's back, but I didn't leave

WEDNESDAY
A look inside New Zealand's first Pet Refuge