Clark Reintroduces Bill Protecting Domestic Violence Victims and Pets 

Washington, D.C. –  Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehitnen (R-FL) have introduced the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act of 2015, bipartisan legislation to help the estimated one-third of domestic violence victims who delayed leaving their abusive relationships out of concern for the wellbeing of their pets. The bill is H.R. 1258, and has 48 original cosponsors.

“Sadly, domestic violence is something one in every four women will experience at some point in their lives,” said Congresswoman Clark. “This isolating experience is made even worse for those who fear for the safety of their pet. Most pet lovers, including me, consider their beloved dog or cat a part of their family. No one should have to make the choice between leaving an abusive situation and ensuring their pet’s safety. I am grateful for the partnerships we’ve formed across the aisle and between organizations working to end both domestic violence and animal abuse. Together, we crafted a bill that will help save lives.”

“I’m proud to work with Rep. Clark on the PAWS Act in order to ensure that victims of domestic violence have all protections available to them,” said Congresswoman Ros-Lehitnen. “Too many victims feel compelled to stay in abusive relationships to protect their pets. This bill protects both victims and pets. We should continue to work for the day when victims of domestic violence will not be hindered in their decision to leave an abuser.”

Recent studies have shown that a common component to domestic abuse is the intentional targeting of pets for abuse to exert control over their intimate partners. As many as 25 percent of domestic violence survivors have reported returning to an abusive partner out of concern for their pet. Despite the urgent need, resource strapped domestic violence shelters are rarely able to offer protection for pets accompanying families who are forced to leave a dangerous environment. To date, only 3 percent of domestic violence shelters nationwide can accommodate pets.

This legislation expands federal law to include protections for pets of domestic violence victims and establishes a federal grant program to assist in acquiring a safe shelter for pets. The PAWS Act strongly asserts the need for states to expand their legal protections for the pets of domestic violence victims.

Clark’s bill has garnered the support of local and national domestic violence and animal welfare advocates. The PAWS Act is supported by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the National Link Coalition, the Sheltering Animals & Families Together Program, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute, RedRover, the National District Attorneys Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the YWCA USA, and the National Sheriffs' Association.