In a huge step forward for our nation’s companion animals, U.S. Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) have come together to introduce the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act (H.R. 5267), landmark legislation extending existing federal protections to pets of domestic violence victims.
The connection between animal cruelty and domestic violence is a well-documented one and, sadly, many pets are often used as pawns in domestic disputes. Seventy-one percent of women entering domestic violence shelters have reported that their abusers also harmed, threatened, and in severe cases, killed their pets. What’s more, as many as half of those victims delay seeking help and remain in these dangerous environments because they fear for the safety of the pets they are forced to leave behind.
If passed, the Act would prohibit abusers from crossing state lines to harm a domestic partner’s pets, making it a punishable offense under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). It also adds veterinary care to the list of restitution costs recoverable by victims, authorizes federal grant funding to provide assistance and housing to victims’ pets in need of emergency shelter and recommends states extend legal protections to include pets in court-issued protective orders in domestic dispute cases.
While twenty-seven states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have passed laws allowing pets to be included in protective orders, no such legislation currently exists at the federal level, making the PAWS Act the first of its kind to explicitly address this need.
By ensuring strong protections and valuable resources at the federal level, the PAWS Act gives victims the security they need to get help and protects their beloved pets from the hands of abusers. We are so thankful to Reps. Clark and Ros-Lehtinen for their strong leadership in taking this important step in the fight against animal cruelty and domestic violence.
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Time flies when you’re having fun: Competing shelters in the 2014 ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge are nearing the finish line, and we couldn’t be more excited to share that in June and July, the Challengers saved a total of 43,959 animals’ lives! The Challenge shelters achieved this by adopting out or reuniting pets with their guardians—and they saved over 9,000 more lives than during the same two months last year.
We’d like to congratulate the shelters in each division that saved the most additional cats and dogs by the end of the first two months of the Challenge:
Guest blog by ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker
With somewhere between 5 and 7 million homeless animals entering U.S. animal shelters, it’s unconscionable to suggest, as one writer did in the Washington Post, that adopting a pet from an animal shelter is a bad idea. (See a comprehensive refutation from Washington Humane Society’s Lisa Lafontaine.)
But as ridiculous as anti-shelter arguments are, they reveal destructive myths about shelter animals that need to be called out every time they arise. I’m sharing some of the most persistent ones below, and have enlisted help from ASPCA shelter science experts to help dispel them.
Myth: The major reasons dogs end up in shelters is because they were seized in criminal cases, or were too aggressive to own safely.
More than half of all dogs and cats in shelters were received as strays, but that doesn’t mean by any stretch they’re automatically aggressive, come from abusive environments, or have medical challenges. What’s much more important than an animal’s history is its current behavior and medical status. This information is typically well-known and shared by shelter staff who’ve been caring for the animal.
Myth: Shelter animals are not as clean as pet store animals.
Not only is this untrue, but the conditions of many breeding facilities or puppy mills (which supply pet stores that sell dogs) are nothing short of horrific. Puppy mill operators may fail to remove sick dogs from their breeding pools. As a result, puppies from puppy mills sometimes come with congenital and hereditary conditions including epilepsy, heart disease, kidney disease, and respiratory disorders.
Puppies born in puppy mills are usually removed from their mothers at just six weeks of age, denying them critical socialization, and housed in overcrowded and unsanitary wire-floored cages, without adequate veterinary care, food or water. Make no mistake: Anything purchased at a pet store that sells animals—even supplies—is keeping this vicious industry in business.
Myth: Older cats and dogs will not bond with new owners.
Again, simply untrue. Age is not a determining factor in an animal’s affection toward humans or its ability to bond with them. Just ask anyone who’s adopted an older pet, visit a shelter and ask to see their older animals, or simply look into the face of an older dog or cat. Organizations like Susie’s Senior Dogs are trying hard to connect more senior animals with loving homes. Believe me, they’re ready for you.
Myth: A shelter animal should never be given as a gift.
To the uninformed, this may makes sense, but data shows otherwise. A scientific study we published last October found that 96 percent of people who received pets as gifts reported it either increased or had no negative impact on their attachment to that pet. Also, 86 percent of the pets in the study are still in their homes, a percentage roughly equivalent to that in standard adoption.
The survey also showed no difference in attachment based on whether the gift was a surprise or known in advance. This is supported by previous studies conducted in the 1990s and 2000, which found that pets acquired as gifts are actually less likely to be relinquished than pets acquired directly by an individual owner.
This misconception is particularly harmful because it not only prevents shelter animals from going into loving homes, but may drive potential adopters toward pet stores that almost always get their inventory from puppy mills.
Myth: Adopting big or very strong dogs is a bad idea if you have little children.
There’s no evidence that big dogs are more likely than small dogs to harm children. Chances are, you already know some very sweet big dogs, and if you don’t, the ASPCA or your local shelter would be happy to introduce you to one.
There’s been some recent debate about the inherent natures of pit bulls in particular, but again, there’s no evidence to show that pit bulls are more likely to cause harm to humans than any other breed. A dog's—any dog’s—behavior is a function of many factors, including breeding, socialization, training, environment and treatment by owners.
Myth: Getting animals from breeders is safer because the breeders know the animal’s bloodline and family history.
First know that, as a result of their breeding, purebred dogs very often have genetic disorders and medical issue predispositions, certainly no less often than shelter dogs. Also, while bloodlines and histories are useful tools to assess an animal’s value, they are limited in terms of predicting behavior. On the other hand, shelters are motivated to save lives and make strong matches. Some use science and sophisticated tools to appropriately pair up animals and owners, and are happy to share everything they know about each animal.
Good breeders are focused not on profit, but on the health and welfare of the individual animals they handle, and we applaud that. But the plain truth is you’re helping to save and protect more lives if you make adoption your first option, so please match your open home and open heart with an open mind.
Chicken Scratch is an ASPCA Blog feature that highlights interesting news about farm animals and farm animal welfare.
Image courtesy of Compassion in World Farming
This makes us sick! The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new poultry inspection program will not require plants to test for Salmonella and Campylobacter. As reported in a Food Safety Newsopinion piece, the agency “will leave it up to the company to decide what organism to test and which pathogen to test for, leaving the public with no guarantee that poultry plants will test for the pathogens that actually make people sick.
Despite increasing interest in, and demand for, farm-to-table fare, many small-scale farmers aren’t making a living. In an op-ed in The New York Times, one young farmer writes that a whopping “93% of all farm households rely on multiple sources of income,” creating a constant source of financial and emotional stress for many in the field. The farmer also stresses the importance of shifting subsidies from factory farms to family farms to “ensure that growing good food also means making a good living.”
A new study sponsored by the USDA examined consumer safety behavior when shopping for poultry and the findings were flat out gross! Evidently, “most people do not use the plastic bags intended to carry raw meat products nor the sanitizing solution intended to mitigate the spread of harmful bacteria,” both of which are provided in stores. Poultry juices can contaminate anything, from your shopping cart to your kid! Unfortunately, retail raw chicken tends to have high pathogen rates, no surprise given the stressful and dirty conditions in which the birds are forced to live.
“A force with which to be reckoned” is how Politico recently characterized the possible trajectory of the ASPCA’s farm animal advocacy work! Reposted by the Organic Consumers Association, the piece features farm animal welfare campaign member Daisy Freund, and our CEO, Matt Bershadker, discussing our increased focus on farm animals, specifically our work on broiler chicken issues, and our commitment to maintaining “a balanced approach” to the farm animal welfare issue.
At the ASPCA, we LOVE black kitties—but the sad truth is that not everyone feels the same way. Due to outdated (and incorrect) myths and superstitions, black cats have a really hard time getting adopted. That’s why we were so glad to learn that this Sunday, August 17, is Black Cat Appreciation Day!
To celebrate this holiday, we put together just a few of the many reasons we appreciate these raven-coated kitties:
Black cats go with everything—and they’ll never go out of style!
You can tell your kids you adopted a miniature panther.
Their fur won’t show on your little black dress.
In most cultures, black cats are a sign of good luck.
Black cats are just as loving, sweet and wonderful as any other cat!
We hope you will join us in celebrating Black Cat Appreciation Day by heading to your local shelter and bringing home a black cat this weekend. If you’re in the New York City area, come meet some the black cats available at the ASPCA Adoption Center right now:
Salem Salem can be a bit shy with new people, but once he gets to know you, he’ll shower you with purrs, head-butts, and plenty of lap time. If properly introduced, this handsome 2-year-old can live in a home with another cat.
Pinky This sweet, soulful 4-year-old cat is ready for his forever home. He’s a bit nervous around other cats, so Pinky would do best in a home where he gets to be the only pet. He also has a soft spot for yummy treats!
Princess Princess is a sensitive kitty and can be timid around new people. Once she relaxes, though, she is very sweet and enjoys petting. She will do best in a home with an experienced cat adopter and respectful kids ages 14 and up.
JamesandGwendolyn James (4) and Gwendolyn (6) are another bonded pair. These sweeties like attention, but they also appreciate their solitude from time to time. Both are FIV positive and would do best in a stable home with an experienced adopter.
BernardandMinerva Bernard and Minerva are BFFs (Best Feline Friends), so they are looking for a home together. These four-month-old kitties would do best in a quiet home with respectful kids ages 12 and up.