As many as one-third of domestic violence victims wait to leave a dangerous situation because they fear for the safety of their pet, according to The Humane Society of the United States.
Now these victims have one more supporter in the push to pass national legislation that would benefit victims of domestic violence and their pets.
On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) called on Congress to support the Protect Pets and Women from Domestic Violence, or PAWS Act.
“Victims of domestic violence should not have to choose between their own safety and the safety of their pets, and that’s why the PAWS Act is so important,” Schumer said in a press release. “All too often abusers use family pets as leverage against their victims and this legislation targets the neglected circumstance that results from this type of abuse – one where abusers use beloved pets to maintain control over their victims.”
If passed, the bill would direct the Department of Agriculture to set up a grant program for pet-friendly domestic violence shelters; allow pets to be added to orders of protection; and make the person who harmed the pet responsible for veterinary bills and other costs.
The move to protect victims is already taking place on a state level in several areas of the country. In Iowa City, Iowa, the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) is scheduled to add three dog kennels, an outdoor dog run and three cat homes to its facility to one facility by July.
As the Animal Welfare Institute reports, pets are closely linked emotionally with their owner and provide unconditional love and stability for the abused and any children involved. Abusers are aware of this bond and exploit that bond to control, frighten, manipulate and punish their victims.
“This (PAWS Act) removes an unnecessary barrier, because victims with pets are so torn when it comes to leaving,” Schemer added in his statement. It “will finally provide domestic violence victims who are pet owners with the opportunity to keep their families together while escaping a dangerous situation.”
H.R.1258 (the PAWS Act) is currently in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations. The Senate version, S.1559, is with the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.