WALTHAM – Today, December 18, Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Congresswoman Katherine Clark (MA-5) joined together with animal and domestic violence survivors and advocates to celebrate the passage of the Pets and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, which President Trump will sign into law on Thursday, December 20, 2018.
Originally introduced in 2014, the bill was able to secure passage as part of the federal Farm bill and is heralded by bipartisan lawmakers and advocates as a central solution in the fight to curb domestic violence. The bill had 250 cosponsors, 62 of which were members of the Republican Caucus.
“No one should have to make the choice between finding safety and staying in a violent situation to protect their pet,” said Congresswoman Clark. “For most pet owners, including me, their dog or cat is a part of their family and this law empowers survivors with the resources to leave a dangerous situation while being able to continue to care for their family. I’m grateful for the partnerships we’ve formed between organizations working to end both domestic violence and animal abuse. Together, we crafted a bill that will help save lives.”
The PAWS Act expands federal domestic violence protections to include protections for the pets of domestic violence victims and establishes a federal grant program specifically designed to assist victims of domestic violence to safely shelter their pets when they leave their abusers.
Nearly one-third of domestic violence victims reported delaying their decision to leave out of concern for what would happen to their pets.
Currently, only 3 percent of domestic violence shelters nationwide can accommodate pets. Victims who are forced to leave their pets behind because of a lack of pet sheltering options report an ongoing dread for the safety of their pet. Abusers often continue to use a pet left behind as a coercive tool even after the victim has fled.
According to one study, as many as 25 percent of participants reported returning to an abusive relationship out of concern for their pets.
“The inclusion of the PAWS Act in the Farm Bill will help victims of domestic violence and their pets escape abusive environments and seek the shelter and safety they need,” said Richard Patch, Vice President of Federal Affairs for the ASPCA. “We are grateful to Representative Clark for her steadfast leadership on this issue and we applaud Congress for including this groundbreaking provision in the Farm Bill.”
Clark’s bill has garnered the support of the nation’s leading domestic violence and animal welfare advocates. The PAWS Act is supported by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the National Link Coalition, the Sheltering Animals & Families Together Program, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute, and RedRover.
Photos and release courtesy of Clark’s office