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  • Writer's pictureGina Scrofano

Protecting People and Their Pets From Domestic Violence

When thinking about the tragedies of domestic violence, women often say, "That will never happen to me." However, even some of the most strong-willed individuals find themselves trapped in an abusive household. A question many ask those women is, 'Why don't you just leave?' Considering that many Americans value their pets as family members and that finding a safe place to turn to that accommodates animals is extremely difficult, it is not surprising that not wanting to leave their beloved pet behind is one of the answers.

Research confirming this issue has been ever-increasing, but there is a possible solution to this disheartening problem, and that is the PAWS Act.

What is the PAWS Act?

The Pet and Women Safety Act of 2017 (HR 909/S 322) would provide protection for victims of domestic violence and their pets in the following three ways:

1. Expand current federal laws related to crimes of domestic violence and stalking to protect pets. For example, US Federal Law, Interstate Violation Of Protection Order (18 US Code § 2262) currently protects an individual from violence, threats, and harassment from a person in which they have a protection/restraining order against. The PAWS Act would add the individual's pet to that law, extending protection to the animal as well.

2. Establish federal grants to be awarded specifically to shelters and programs that provide emergency, short-term shelter and housing assistance for victims who must ensure safety for their pets when fleeing from domestic violence.

3. Express the sense of Congress (formal congressional opinion), encouraging the States to include protections for the pet of a person in domestic violence protection orders.

Anti-Pet Real Estate Market

One might assume a person of standard financial means could simply move into a rental unit with their pet. However, although most of us cherish our pets as part of our families, several landlords have yet to adjust their standards to accommodate that.

Approximately only 38% of rental properties currently on the market in California allow pets.(1)

On the opposite side of our nation, that number dwindles down to approximately 26% in New Hampshire.(2)

Even if one could afford the immediate expense of a pet-friendly rental, it could take several months to find one that is available. For domestic violence victims who have no family to turn to for help, pet accommodating shelters are their only hope for a roof over their head if they don't want to leave their pet in the hands of abusers while they search for long-term housing.

Protecting All Victims of Domestic Violence

Although the identical bills HR 909 and S 322 are also referred to by the title Pet and Women Safety Act of 2017, the protections provided by the bills are for the pet's of all victims of domestic violence, regardless of gender.

The Bottom Line

Up to 71% of women seeking shelter from domestic violence report that their partners had injured or killed a family pet, or threatened to do so. Other reports show those numbers at as high as 83%. In a study researching child abuse, 88% of the families in which physical abuse took place also had animals that were abused. Often even after victims flee, abusers continue to threaten and abuse their pets as retaliation or to force the victims to return.All this leads to the following question:If you and your pet were suffering from domestic violence or sexual abuse and you had no family to go to, would you resort to living with your pet in your car or on the streets? Would you stay and continue to suffer? Or would you leave your pet behind to flee for your life knowing it would likely lead to the end of your pet's?

My answer? None of the above, because I choose the PAWS Act.

For House Version of PAWS Act:

1. Find your House Representative Here

2. View Co-Sponsors of HR 909 Here

3. If your House Rep. is missing from that list: Call or Email your Representative and kindly urge them to co-sponsor HR 909 (PAWS Act)

For Senate Version of PAWS Act:

1. Find Your Senators Here

2. View Co-Sponsors of S 322 Here

3. If your Senator missing from that list: Call or Email your Senator and kindly urge them to co-sponsor S 322 (PAWS Act)

Example: “My name is (your name) from (your city) and I’m reaching out to urge (Representative/Senator name) to co-sponsor the PAWS Act, HR 909/S 322. Over 80% of women entering shelters report that their partners abused or killed the family pet, and many victims delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety. The PAWS Act will help protect those victims of domestic violence and their pets by extending current protections to include pets. HR 909/S 322 has bipartisan support with 225 co-sponsors in the House, 12 co-sponsors in the Senate, and I kindly urge (Representative/Senator name) to add (his/her) name to that list.”

(1) Zillow rental property inquiry dated May 17, 2017: California current rentals actively on the market 24,689 total/9, 375 allow pets.

(2) Zillow rental property inquiry dated May 17, 2017: New Hampshire current rentals actively on the market: 616 total/161 allow pets.

Straight Twist Logo, Animal Welfare


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