Victims of domestic violence fear not only for their own safety, but also for that of their companion animals. Having no safe place for their pets prevents many victims from leaving their abusers. The PAWS Act helps to remove that roadblock.
When there is violence in the home, it can be directed at everyone—spouse or partners, children, elderly family members, and companion animals. Abusers are well aware of the bond between their victims and their pets, and they exploit that bond to frighten, control, manipulate, and even "punish" their human victims. A number of surveys bear the grim statistics:
As many as 48 percent of the battered women reported they had delayed leaving a dangerous situation out of concern for their companion animals' safety.
Between 49 percent and 86 percent reported that their pets had been threatened, harmed, or killed by their partners.
85 percent of domestic violence shelters surveyed indicated that women coming to their facilities spoke of incidents of pet abuse.
H.R. 1258/S. 1559 will help programs provide shelter and housing assistance for the companion animals of victims of domestic violence. It also takes the crucial step of including pets in federal law pertaining to interstate stalking, protection order violations, and restitution, and urges states to allow pets to be included under protection orders (as 28 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have already done).
Clearly, the better able shelters and other service providers are to assist domestic violence survivors with finding a safe place for their companion animals, the better able they will be to bring everyone to safety. The PAWS Act will greatly increase their capacity to meet these critical needs.
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