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Documentary highlights Pet Refuge's crucial role

Hibiscus Coast App

Staff Reporter

22 June 2024, 12:51 AM

Documentary highlights Pet Refuge's crucial roleFilm shows shelter for pets of abuse victims

A new documentary, Refuge: A Duty to Care, directed by Professor Annie Goldson, sheds light on Pet Refuge, a sanctuary that shelters pets from violent households.


The film premieres at the Doc Edge Film Festival starting June 26.


Pet Refuge, established by Julie Chapman, offers temporary shelter to pets from across New Zealand, providing a safe haven until their owners can find secure housing.





Goldson, a communication professor at University of Auckland, first heard about the refuge on the radio.


She then collaborated with award-winning filmmaker Alex Reed to produce the documentary.


“Pets are often used by abusive individuals as a method to exert control,” Goldson said.


“Pet Refuge looks after animals until abuse survivors find a safe place.”


Professor Annie Goldson.


The refuge operates in an undisclosed location on the outskirts of Auckland to protect its staff, owners, and animals.


It accommodates various pets, including cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, and even lizards.


The facility is staffed by veterinarians, vet nurses, and pet carers who help rehabilitate the animals.


The film, shot by University of Auckland alumni, features moving scenes of life at Pet Refuge and compelling stories of family violence survivors.


Goldson ensured the documentary was sensitive to viewers' tolerance for distressing images.


“Most refuges and emergency accommodation won’t accept animals,” Goldson said. “After victims find permanent homes, they’re eager to get their pets back. The animals stay at Pet Refuge for about three months on average, and 95 percent are reunited with their owners.”





Professor Tracey McIntosh, a sociologist interviewed in the film, emphasised the collective responsibility to intervene in violent situations.


“Pet Refuge really speaks to that kaupapa,” she said.


The documentary will premiere on June 26 at 6:15 pm in Christchurch, with additional screenings in Auckland and Wellington in July.


It will also be available on Virtual Cinema from July 15 to 31.