This Bill Would Help Protect Domestic Violence Survivors' Pets

Photographed by Balarama Heller.
Domestic violence in and of itself already has devastating effects, but it can be even more devastating when it involves beloved pets. That's why U.S. representative Katherine Clark, along with over 100 other colleagues, have reintroduced the PAWS Act, which would provide shelter for the pets of domestic violence survivors to lessen concerns that survivors may feel when they consider leaving their abusers.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 71% of pet owners who enter into shelters report that their abuser had threatened, injured, or killed a family pet, indicating that a vast number of abusers often harm or threaten a pet as part of an attempt to control their partner. And as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports, only about 3% of domestic violence shelters accept pets.

"Pets often become a member of the family, and the idea of leaving a beloved pet behind in a dangerous situation is unthinkable," Representative Clark said in a statement. "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."

In addition to helping programs provide shelters for pets, the PAWS Act, or the Pets and Women Safety Act, would also urge states to allow pets to be included under protection orders to protect survivors from their abusers.

With 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experiencing intimate partner violence each year, we still have a long way to go when it comes to preventing domestic violence — but this is certainly a step in the right direction.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.

Update: This piece has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Representative Clark's name.
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