The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, which is designed “to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence from emotional and psychological trauma caused by acts of violence or threats of violence against their pets,” was reintroduced in Congress earlier this week by U.S. Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Gary Peters (D-MI).
Domestic abusers often seek to manipulate and intimidate their victims by threatening, or worse, hurting their pets. Currently, according to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), only three percent of domestic violence shelters across the country allow pets; in many cases, deterring a woman from leaving an abusive relationship.
If passed, PAWS would expand existing federal domestic violence protections to include threats or acts of violence against a victim’s pet, as well as provide grant funding to programs that offer shelter and housing assistance for domestic violence victims with pets. The bill also requires the full amount of the victim’s losses for purposes of restitution in domestic violence and stalking offenses to include any costs incurred for veterinary services relating to physical care for the victim’s pet.
“I am committed to combating domestic violence and ensuring survivors are provided with the services they need to heal. No victim of this crime should have to choose between their safety and the safety of their pet, which is why I’m glad Nevada has facilities in both Reno and Las Vegas that serve victims of domestic violence, their children, and pets,” said Senator Heller. “I am proud to introduce this critical legislation with my colleagues to ensure domestic violence survivors across the country receive the assistance they need to leave an abusive environment.”
“Abusers often exploit the emotional attachment victims have with their pets, leaving victims of domestic violence stuck choosing between their own safety or leaving a beloved pet in harm’s way,” continued Senator Peters. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation that will help empower victims to leave abusive situations, get a fresh start and keep their pets who are treasured members of their families.”
U.S. Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) are leading the introduction of the PAWS Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Photo Credits: Petcha, Animal Welfare Institute, Take Part