They are the forgotten victims of domestic violence.
Dogs, cats, birds and other pets have been held at ransom, threatened or killed when domestic violence victims, mostly women, have left their partners.
Some women choose not to leave because of fears for their pet's safety.
But the RSPCA’s Safe Beds for Pets program, which arranges emergency accommodation and veterinary care, has offered hope and help for those affected.
Funds for the program will be raised on Sunday, May 18 when the state’s largest regional Million Paws Walk takes place at Lake Illawarra.
Program development manager Karen Thorne has spoken to women who have been told by their partners if they leave their pet will be hurt or killed.
‘‘We help them make a safe escape plan, which includes their pet,’’ she said.
‘‘We’ll get a referral from either a client or human service agency like Centrelink or women’s refuges.
‘‘We really empower them to leave the violent situation and start working it out from there.
‘‘They tell us they just wouldn’t have left unless the service had been available.’’
Each pet is assigned a caseworker who updates clients on their pets by sending photos and making calls.
The program is also available for people in same-sex relationships.
‘‘There hasn’t been as much research in that area, but the anecdotal evidence is that it’s still an issue,’’ Ms Thorne said.
For more information on the Safe Beds for Pets program go to www.rspcansw.org.au or call 9782 4408.
The RSPCA Million Paws Walk will be held on Sunday, May 18, near the corner of Reddall Parade and Entrance Street, Reddall Reserve, Lake Illawarra.
Family, friends and pets are welcome for a day filled with music, dog washes, a jumping castle, facing painting, market and food stalls, a fancy dress competition and an auction.
Funds raised will support Unanderra’s RSPCA shelter and the Safe Beds for Pets program.
Register online now at www.millionpawswalk.com.au or from 9.00am on the day.