Any member of a household, including companion animals, can become victims of domestic violence. In fact, fear of what might happen to a pet keeps some human victims from leaving their abusive situation, according to AVMA.com. This is the impetus behind bipartisan, federal legislation H.R. 1258, referred to as The Pet and Women Safety Act (PAWS Act)1. This pending legislation has 57 co-sponsors in Congress and the endorsement of many domestic violence and welfare organizations, says the American Veterinary Medical Association, which has just announced its support for the PAWS Act.
The PAWS Act
The PAWS Act would assist both male and female victims of domestic violence and their pets in the following ways1:
- Threatening a pet would be considered a stalking-related crime.
- Grant funding would increase the availability of alternative housing for pets of domestic violence victims.
- States would provide protections against violent or threatening acts toward the pets belonging to the person named in a domestic violence protection order.
- Abusers who harm pets would be required to pay for veterinary expenses to treat the animal.
Domestic abuse victims and their pets
AVMA.com goes on to say that Maryland Democratic Representative, Katherine Clark, introduced the PAWS Act on March 4, along with Florida Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Ms. Clark has stated, “No one should have to make the choice between leaving an abusive situation and ensuring their pet’s safety.” Advocates for this legislation report that approximately 33 percent of domestic violence victims postpone leaving an abusive relationship because of concern for their pet's well being. Additionally, up to 25 percent of victims return to an abusive partner because they fear for their pets.
Abusers are often aware of the emotional bond between the victims and their pets. They may exploit that bond in order to frighten, manipulate and control the target of their abuse. Some grim statistics bear this out2:
- As many as 48 percent of battered women reported that they delayed leaving a dangerous situation because of concern for their pet’s safety.
- Between 49 and 86 percent of victims reported that their pets had been threatened, harmed or killed by their abusers.
- 85 percent of domestic violence shelters indicated that women coming into their facilities spoke of incidents of pet abuse.
- When leaving an abuse situation requires relinquishment of a pet, victims of abuse report losing an important source of support as they adjust to this separation and recover from the violence.
Some victims who have escaped their abuse struggle to afford necessary veterinary care for their pets, harmed by abuse. While many sympathetic veterinarians discount or donate their services, the PAWS Act would enforce provision of veterinary care costs in these situations.
What you can do
The PAWS Act was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations on 3/31/15. How can you help this bill come to fruition? I encourage you to write to your US representatives, asking them to cosponsor the PAWS Act (H.R. 1258). Just imagine how this legislation will provide benefit to victims of abuse by giving them the ability to protect a beloved pet.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
- "H.R.5267 - Pet and Women Safety Act of 2014113th Congress (2013-2014)." CONGRESS.GOV. Library of Congress, Web. 13 May 2015.
- "Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act." Animal Welfare Institute, Web.
‘Pets and Women Safety Act’ aims to protect animals of domestic violence victims
by: Rosie Nguyen, Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
Posted: Dec 28, 2018 / 11:48 PM MST / Updated: Dec 29, 2018 / 12:19 AM MST
(ABC4 News/CNN) A new law signed by President Trump will help protect pets of domestic violence survivors and encourage victims to leave their abusive relationships.
According to a study called Battered Pets and Domestic Violence, approximately one-third of domestic violence victims said they delayed their decision to enter a shelter out of concerns for their pets’ welfare.
The Urban Resource Institute reported only three percent of domestic violence shelters in the U.S. can accommodate pets, often forcing survivors to decide between leaving their pets behind or remaining in an abusive environment and risking further abuse.
ABC 4 News spoke to a domestic violence survivor, who we’ll call Jane Doe to protect her identity. She said her former abuser was not just violent towards her, but also her animals.
“He was always hitting the dog, kicking the dog, and very angry towards the dog too,” said Doe.
She said when she left her abusive environment several years ago, there were not enough resources to help her if she took her dog and four cats with her.
“I was always worried about what would happen to them if I left, if they were going to be taken care of, what he was going to do to them, where they would end up. I could never find somewhere to go to take them,” said Doe.
Doe said her ex starved her four cats and locked her dog up in the bathroom before chaining it outside. The dog eventually escaped, but was hit by a car.
“I was super devastated that I had to leave him in that position. I felt like it was my fault that he ended up being hit and basically starved. He lived his life confined in a bathroom,” said Doe.
Doe now works closely with local rescue groups and animal shelters. She said in addition to the emotional and physical trauma that victims suffer, some also deal with the shaming of surrendering their pets.
“There are stereotypes behind it…the bashing that some people will get for turning over their animals to a humane society or shelter. They don’t understand how desperate they are to find a better situation for their pets,” said Doe.
The Pets and Women Safety Act (or PAWS, for short) aims to change all this.
According to CNN, the act expands federal domestic violence protections to include protections for the pets of domestic violence victims. It creates a federal grant program to help domestic violence programs assist clients in finding shelter for their pets when they leave their abusers.
Through its grant program, PAWS aims to support the construction and operating expenses of new or existing pet shelter and housing. It also supports short-term shelter and housing assistance, such as expenses incurred for the temporary shelter, housing, boarding or fostering of the pets of domestic violence victims.
The measure also calls for amending the definition of stalking in federal criminal code to include ‘conduct that causes a person to experience a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to his or her pet.’
The act creates a criminal penalty for those who travel across state lines with the intent of violating a protection order against a pet.
“I think it’s an amazing bill that has been passed,” said Doe. “It’s going to give victims hope that they are not only going to be protected themselves, but their animals, who they care so much about, will be protect as well.”
Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Bills would protect pets of domestic violence victims
Bills would protect pets of domestic violence victims
Two bills are moving through the Florida Legislature that would allow judges in domestic violence cases to grant an order of protection, not only for the victim of domestic violence, but also for family pets as well.
LAKE MARY, Fla. - Senate Bill 1082 and House Bill 241 are moving through Florida’s House and Senate with bipartisan support.
The measure would allow judges in domestic violence cases to grant an order of protection, not only for the victim of domestic violence but also for family pets as well. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is backing the bill as well.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey says, “Anyone who will hurt a pet will hurt a human.”
Sheriff Ivey says law enforcement officials encounter an all too familiar problem when dealing with domestic violence cases.
"Well, you see so many cases where the victim is scared to leave because threats have been made against the pet or they say I’m taking my dog or my can and the offender says no you are not. they are staying here and again it becomes a pawn," Ivey says.
This new measure, if passed, would allow victims to take temporary custody of “family animals.”
The pets could, in some cases, be handed over to a local animal shelter where they could be fostered until a final legal determination is made.
New Legislation Will Protect Pets Involved in Domestic Violence - pets
SafePlaceforPets.org is a resource listing pet-friendly domestic violence shelters, as well as organizations that can look after the pets of domestic violence survivors when pets cannot stay at the domestic violence shelter. Click the picture below to search for pet-friendly resources.
Research clearly shows that offenders of domestic violence often have a pattern of abuse involving all members of the household – including children and pets. When survivors of domestic violence seek to escape their abusive homes they’re not only faced with the challenge of finding shelter for themselves and their children, but also for their pets.
Unfortunately, many shelters do not have the means to house companion animals and many survivors are left facing the difficult decision to either leave their pets behind or remain in the abusive environment. Sadly, many survivors stay in abusive homes for fear of subjecting their animals to continued abuse, if left behind. Equally disturbing, animals are often left with their abusers to face torture or even death.
What is RedRover doing?
RedRover offers financial assistance for victims of domestic violence and their pets through our RedRover Relief program.
- Safe Escape grants pay for temporary boarding and/or veterinary care to enable domestic violence
victims to remove their pets to safety. For safety reasons, the application must be submitted by a shelter
- Safe Housing grants grants fund start-up costs for domestic violence shelters seeking create a program to allow families and pets to escape abuse together. Our grants can help to build pet housing at the domestic violence shelter, or help domestic violence shelters work with partners in the community to offer other pet housing options. Watch our webinar to learn more.
- The Purple Leash Project, created in partnership with Purina, is a grant program that will provide funding and resources to domestic violence shelters who wish to accept both survivors and their pets.
Since 2007, RedRover has awarded over a million dollars in grants to help care for and shelter animals displaced by family violence. Here is one story:
Lynn and her family had been living in fear for months. Lynn’s two-year-old daughter and their family pet, a one-year-old dog named Coco, constantly witnessed screaming and disturbing behavior from Lynn’s abuser. He regularly “tore up the apartment” and had once kicked Coco. Lynn gained the courage to leave their abuser and fled to a nearby domestic violence shelter. The shelter was unable to house pets on site, but Lynn’s case manager knew about RedRover’s emergency grant program. A Safe Escape grant paid for 30 nights of emergency boarding for Coco and enabled the entire family to start a new life. Learn more about available grants.
Relevant statistics on domestic violence and animal abuse:
- 52 percent of victims in shelters leave their pets with their batterers (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
- Nearly 50 percent of domestic violence victims have delayed leaving their abuser out of fear of harm to their animals (Carlisle-Frank, Frank and Nielsen, (2004). Pets as Pawns. )
- 71 percent of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims 32 percent reported their children had hurt or killed animals (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
While most domestic violence shelters do not provide on-site shelter for animals, programs exist that help connect pet owners with safe animal havens.
Share the flier
Download RedRover’s flier about pets and domestic violence (PDF) and distribute it to your local domestic violence shelters, animal shelters and other people who care.
Spread the message
We’ve created a wallet-sized resource card that you can distribute to your community and those who need it. This card directs people to our Safe Place for Pets website, where they can find pet-friendly resources in their area. Complete the order form, and we will send you a pack of wallet cards to distribute. We’ll also provide a handy informational sheet with some suggested talking points.
Resources for domestic violence shelters:
- If you are a family violence shelter interested in housing pets on-site, please email [email protected] for assistance.
- Download the Start-Up Guide, written by Allie Phillips, that outlines how to transform your shelter to house family pets on-site.
- Learn more about RedRover’s Domestic Violence Safe Housing grants, which fund start-up costs for domestic violence shelters seeking create a program to allow families and pets to escape abuse together.
- The Domestic Violence Resource Library is a comprehensive list of all kinds of domestic violence resources divided by location, audience, and type.
- The American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Humane Fund Women’s Shelter Grants are awarded for essential operational support relating to the housing of pets or capital improvements specifically for the housing of pets.
- The Mary Kay Foundation observes National Domestic Violence Awareness Month by awarding grants to deserving women’s domestic violence shelters across the United States.
- Rescue Rebuild is a shelter renovation program that renovates domestic violence shelters to be able to accept animals.
- Banfield Foundation’s Pet Advocacy Grants support nonprofit organization programs that are designed to keep pets healthy and in loving homes.
- RedRover maintains a directory of various grant programs for nonprofit organizations.
Legislation related to pets and protective orders:
Many states have enacted legislation to include pets in protection orders in cases of domestic abuse. Is your state one of them? Learn more