U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) this week applauded Congressional passage of bipartisan legislation he introduced with Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) to help protect domestic violence survivors and their pets.
The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act helps provide funding for facilities that harbor survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence and their pets, or are looking to do so.
The legislation passed the Senate and the House of Representatives as part of a larger bill setting agriculture policy and now goes to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.
“Survivors of domestic violence should never have to decide between leaving an abusive relationship or staying and risking their safety to protect their pets,” said Senator Peters. “This bill will help ensure more safe havens for survivors and their pets are available – so together they can begin a new chapter in their lives.”
“We applaud Sen. Peters for his leadership on the PAWS Act to protect domestic violence victims and their pets. Pets are a significant source of support, and oftentimes, a family member. No one should ever be forced to choose between their own safety and the safety of their pets,” said Holly Gann, Director of Federal Affairs, Animal Wellness Action.
The PAWS Act expands existing federal domestic violence protections to include threats or acts of violence against a survivor’s pet, and provides grant funding to programs that offer shelter and housing assistance for domestic violence survivors with pets.
The bill also requires the full amount of the survivor’s losses for purposes of restitution in domestic violence and stalking offenses to include any costs incurred for veterinary services relating to physical care for the survivor’s pet.
Multiple studies have shown that domestic abusers often seek to manipulate or intimidate their victims by threatening or harming their pets, but according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), only three percent of domestic violence shelters across the country accept pets.
The ASPCA reported that a study in Wisconsin found 68 percent of domestic violence survivors reported their abusers were also violent towards their animals.
A similar study found that as many as 25 percent of domestic violence survivors have returned to an abusive partner out of concern for their pet. A separate 2007 study found that as many as one-third of domestic abuse survivors reported they delayed leaving an abuser for an average of two years out of concern for the safety of their pet.
The PAWS Act is supported by a number of organizations, including the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the National Link Coalition, the Sheltering Animals & Families Together (SAF-T) Program, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute, RedRover, the National Animal Care & Control Association, the National District Attorneys Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, YWCA USA, the American Kennel Club, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the National Sheriffs’ Association.