ASPCA Commends Federal Efforts to Protect Pets of Domestic Violence Victims

Reps. Clark (D-Ma.) and Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl.) introduce Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act to keep domestic violence victims and their pets safe and together during crises
August 18, 2014

WASHINGTON—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today applauds Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Ma.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl.) for introducing the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, which would expand existing federal domestic violence protections to include pets of domestic violence victims. The federal bill (H.R. 5267) would prohibit crossing state lines to harm a domestic partner’s pet, as well as establish a federal grant program to provide assistance and housing to victims’ pets in need of emergency shelter. Today, Rep. Clark discussed the bill at the MSPCA’s Angell Animal Medical Center in Waltham, Mass., her home state.

“The link between animal cruelty and domestic violence is well documented,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “Sadly, many victims of domestic violence remain in abusive relationships and may resist going to a shelter because they fear for the safety of the pets they must leave behind.  The PAWS Act will provide valuable resources to give victims the security they need to escape a dangerous environment, which is why we are grateful to Representatives Clark and Ros-Lehtinen for addressing this problem at the federal level.”

"Sadly, domestic violence is something one in every four women will experience at some point in their lives,” said Rep. Clark. “This isolating experience is made even worse for those who fear for the safety of their pet. Most pet lovers, including me, consider their beloved dog or cat a part of their family. No one should have to make the choice between leaving an abusive situation and ensuring their pet’s safety, and I am grateful for the partnerships we've formed with organizations working to end domestic violence and animal abuse. Together, we crafted a bill that will help save lives."

The PAWS Act amends the Violence Against Women Act’s interstate stalking provisions to make crossing state lines to injure pets a punishable offense. It also adds veterinary care to the list of restitution costs that can be recovered by victims, establishes a federal grant program designed to help domestic violence victims safely house their pets, and expresses a recommendation by Congress that states should include pets in protective orders. Approximately half of U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have enacted laws that include provisions for household pets in orders of protection, but no federal legislation has addressed this need before now.

Research indicates that 71 percent of pet-owning women entering domestic violence shelters report that their abuser threatened, harmed or killed a family pet. Even more concerning, as many as 50 percent of domestic violence victims remain in abusive situations for fear of what would happen if they left their pets behind.

Despite the frequency and severity of this problem, only a few domestic violence shelters across the country accommodate pets. The ASPCA recently entered into a unique collaboration with the Urban Resource Institute’s PALS (People and Animals Living Safely) program, New York City’s first-ever initiative to shelter domestic violence victims and their pets together. The ASPCA provided URI with a $75,000 grant to fund a position that ensures both clients and pets residing in URI’s largest emergency shelter receive the support and services they need to heal and move forward with their lives.

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