Domestic violence is a complex and frightening reality, and is made worse by the fact that 71% of women entering safe houses or shelters report that their abusers threatened to harm, kill, or abandon their pet. The problem is so bad that many people actually delay or postpone seeking shelter from the abuse, because they are too concerned about the welfare of the pets they will leave behind.
While some shelters are pet-friendly or have working relationships with local veterinary offices where residents of the shelter can board their animals for free, these arrangements are rare. More often than not, people fleeing abusive homes are forced to leave their pets behind. Fortunately, there is hope. The proposed Pet And Women Safety Act (PAWS) is actively seeking to expand federal funding for animal shelters, as well as to impose fines and legal ramifications against those who threaten or act violently against a family pet.
Why Is the PAWS Act Important?
Every year, approximately one million dogs and cats are severely abused or killed as a direct result of domestic violence. Additionally, concern for a family pet provides leverage with which an abuser can continue to control the victim. If domestic violence victims understood that both they and their pets could escape the abuse, the obstacles to leaving suddenly become considerably smaller.
What Will the PAWS Act Do?
Unlike any other current legislation, the PAWS Act seeks to include pets in federal law that addresses interstate stalking, restraining orders and restitution. It fights to extend orders of protection to pets as well as people. The act would expand federal funding to furnish more shelters and emergency facilities to house and care for animals affected by domestic violence. The PAWS Act will increase the capacity of existing shelters and help put programs in place that will allow victims of domestic violence to board their animals at these facilities at no cost.
Being able to provide for the care of a beloved family pet is important to survivors of domestic abuse. In addition to allowing them a choice in what happens to their animal, the PAWS Act will also help survivors of domestic violence escape from the abuse. While nearly all domestic violence shelters have ample facilities for individuals and children, very few of them can accept pets. Fortunately, the legislation proposed by the PAWS Act will help to provide a safe haven not only for the victims of domestic violence but also for their beloved pets.