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 the Herald announced the launch of the first Pet Refuge, a service that will removed that barrier for women looking to escape domestic violence.

Donations for New Zealand's first Pet Refuge - a shelter for animals affected by domestic violence - have reached just over $100,000 within the first five days of fundraising.

The shelter is currently under construction at a location in the Auckland area.

Earthworks are underway and the building will follow as soon as possible.

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It is hoped the shelter will be operating by April.

But before that can happen $250,000 needs to be raised to fit the shelter out with everything pets will need to feel comfy and cosy in their temporary home.

READ MORE: Pet Refuge: A childhood of fear - domestic violence survivor recalls animal abuse

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

Most of the funds for the building have been donated by the Lindsay Foundation.

But a further $250,000 is needed to equip the facility with everything the animals will need on a daily basis - from bedding and enclosures to play areas, toys, exercise equipment and health supplies.

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

The shelter will house up to 24 dogs, 35 cats, 15 birds and 15 other small pets at any given time.

Larger animals - horses, sheep, goats and the like - will be cared for on one of a network of safe farms.

The service is available for victims nationwide and will operate alongside Women's Refuge, who will make the appropriate referrals.

As of last night more than $100,000 had been donated via a PledgeMe fundraising page.

"What an amazing initiative," said one donor.

"Our own animals are so much more than pets and we understand the concern and need to provide them with a safe haven. Hopefully this will be a major stepping stone to getting out of abusive environments for both women and animals."

Another said Pet Refuge was a "campaign worth supporting".

"This will not only save animals but more importantly give victims the opportunity to leave no loved ones behind."

"If I was in an abusive relationship, I could never leave my pets. A refuge like this is going to be utterly priceless. Thank you," said a third person.

More than 800 people have donated to the cause so far.

Chapman's initiative was announced the same day as a major research by Women's Refuge into pet abuse in the context of domestic violence.

It 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.

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

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.

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.

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

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