The founder of New Zealand's first shelter for animals affected by domestic violence is "thrilled" with the support from the community - including more than $121,069 in donation pledges.

It is hoped Pet Refuge will open its doors to animals in April next year and will safely house animals while victims of domestic violence leave their abusers.

New Zealand has the worst reported rate of domestic violence in the developed world and new Women's Refuge survey-based research has revealed that the abuse is not just between humans in these dangerous relationships.

Animals are routinely beaten, tortured, threatened and killed by abusers in a bid to exert dominance and power, to demonstrate force, to manipulate, to induce compliance.

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The Family Violence and Animal Abuse Survey 2018, shared exclusively with the Herald on Monday as part of a three-day series on the issue, aimed to explore victims' experiences of the abuse of their pets and how that influenced their attempts at leaving violent homes.

In a survey of almost 1000 domestic violence victims who had experienced a partner abusing or threatening a pet, the research showed 53 per cent of them delayed leaving the relationship because they feared what would happen to animals left behind.

Pet Refuge - Emma's Story

As well, 41 per cent said they or their children had been made to watch their pet being harmed by their partner.

Pet Refuge founder Julie Chapman, also the brains behind KidsCan, said animals were one barrier that prevented or delayed victims leaving abusers.

She hoped the new shelter would remove that barrier for some people, enabling them to get to safety and start new violence-free lives.

Chapman and her family bought the land for the shelter and with help from the Lindsay Foundation, will construct the building.

Julie Chapman, founder of Pet Refuge, at home with two of her eight rescue cats. Photo / Michael Craig
Julie Chapman, founder of Pet Refuge, at home with two of her eight rescue cats. Photo / Michael Craig

However, $250,000 is needed to fit the shelter out with enclosures, bedding, play areas, toys and medical facilities.

Chapman called on Kiwis to donate and within the first four days more than $118,874 had been pledged via a Pledge Me fundraising page.

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"I am thrilled at the way people have got in behind our campaign," said Chapman.

"To be at $118,874 in four days is incredible and shows New Zealanders really care about the issue of pets being abused as part of family violence."

Almost 1000 people have pledged donations to the cause, many leaving comments on the Pledge Me page.

"A great cause, I am all for this. Just like humans, animals deserve a safe haven too," said one woman.

"An absolutely wonderful happening. Congratulations Julie Chapman for helping not only women's refuge but all the beloved pets as well," another posted.

A third said: "A wonderful initiative. My vision would be to see these established in each region in New Zealand."

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. They need your help.

To donate to the shelter build visit the PledgeMe fundraising page by clicking here.

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