Pet And Women’s Safety act seeks to help survivors of domestic abuse and their pets stay safe together
Several prominent nonprofit and for-profit organizations involved in the pet industry have joined together to promote the passage of the Pet and Women’s Safety (PAWS) Act of 2017. The bill is touted as the first piece of federal legislation designed to protect pets of domestic violence survivors. The goal of the PAWS Act is to foster understanding of the link between different forms of intimate partner abuse and animal cruelty, and to protect survivors of both forms of violence.
The PAWS Act was reintroduced for the current term in 2017 after earlier versions of the bill failed to pass in 2015 and 2014. Congress has yet to hold an official vote on the PAWS Act of 2017.
Included in the coalition of businesses advocating for passage of the PAWS Act are:
- Nestle Purina PetCare
- Bayer Corporation
- Human Animal Bond Research Institute
- Noah’s Animal House
- Pet Partners
- Urban Research Institute (URI)
Studies show that up to 48% of victims of domestic violence remain in an abusive situations out of fear for their pets’ well-being and up to 85% of women in domestic violence shelters report that their abuser was also violent towards their pets. The PAWS Act aims to provide federal grants to support pet-friendly shelter and housing for victims. The bill also creates federal restrictions against threats and/or violence towards pets by perpetrators of domestic violence and requires the violator to pay any veterinary restitution.
Two of the organizations participating in the coalition, the Urban Research Institute in New York City and Noah’s Animal House in Nevada, are among the shockingly few emergency and transitional housing programs to offer pet-friendly lodging to victims. The PAWS Act provides for funding to support these organizations as well as the development of new facilities.
Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) is the House of Representatives sponsor for the PAWS Act. In a recent press conference, she explained that “Pets often become a member of the family, and the idea of leaving a beloved pet behind in a dangerous situation is unthinkable. By ensuring that people experiencing domestic abuse don’t have to make the decision between finding safety for themselves or staying behind to protect their pet, we can empower survivors to seek help.”
It is crucial that legislators are aware of the link between animal cruelty and other forms of violence. Animal abuse is one of the most significant early indicators of domestic abuse. Of the four main forms of family violence — child maltreatment, elder abuse, domestic violence, and animal abuse — it is often the case that multiple forms of abuse occur in tandem. Those who commit abuse are aware of the support and stability created by the bond humans have with their pets and they use this understanding to manipulate and psychologically torture their victims.
The FBI Profiling Unit has found that one of the most consistent indicators of psychopathic tendencies in individuals is cruelty towards animals, especially in childhood. This is particularly dangerous as witnessing or committing violence towards animals, specifically at a young age, is linked with violence desensitization; this creates escalating cycles of violence for both the perpetrator and the witness. If the PAWS Act passes, it will enable law enforcement to punish animal abuse before it escalates into even more harmful behaviors, thus protecting both animals and people.
Individuals can help by sending electronic letters to their local representatives encouraging them to support this vital bipartisan legislation, as well as by sharing Bayer’s educational video on social media.