Pets Need Shielding
from Domestic Violence
The Pet and Women Safety Act will help ensure that domestic violence
survivors have access to safe shelters for their pets.
BY STEVEN FELDMAN
Pets are beloved members of the family, even when families break down. This is certainly true when women and their pets experience domestic violence. Millions of women in the U.S. experience physical violence by an intimate partner every year. 1 Pets are caught in the crossfire, with 71 percent
of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reporting that their batterer had injured, maimed,
killed, or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims. 2
Right now, very few domestic violence shelters allow pets. This can force women into the agonizing
choice of leaving a pet behind. But many survivors won’t do that, even if it means remaining in harm’s
way. Forty-eight percent of domestic violence survivors report that they are unable to escape their abusers
because they are concerned about what will happen to their pets when they leave. 3
Earlier this year, the Pet and Women Safety Act, H.R. 909/S.322 (PAWS Act) was reintroduced in Congress. This bill will help protect victims of domestic violence from emotional and psychological trauma
caused by acts of violence or threats of violence against their pets by establishing a federal grant program
to help ensure that domestic violence survivors have access to safe shelters for their pets.
Pet care companies, including Nestlé Purina and Bayer, are taking action by supporting shelters that
can accommodate pets and by pushing for federal legislation.
As a nonprofit research organization, the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) has gathered compelling scientific information that demonstrates how pets are beneficial to human health and
wellness, including positive benefits for victims of trauma. This scientific data is further reason to support
passage of the PAWS Act. Simply put, our pets are there for us when we need them, and now we have
an opportunity to be there for them.
My experience is that people in the pet industry care deeply and passionately about animals, so I know
that many who read this will answer the call to support the PAWS Act. You can start by taking a few minutes to send a message to your member of Congress. Together, we can work to protect pets and people!
Steven Feldman is executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). HABRI is working
to establish, through science and advocacy, the vital role of companion animals in the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. To learn more about HABRI, visit habri.org.
1 Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking and Intimate Partner Violence
Victimization—National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011,
CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), Sept. 5, 2014 / 63(SS08); 1-18
2 Facts About Animal Abuse & Domestic Violence, American Humane Association, July 19, 2006
3 Rose Brooks Center
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