Proposed legislation reintroduced in Congress recently may be a step forward in protecting victims of domestic violence in New York and across the nation. Currently, only 3 percent of shelters for victims of domestic abuse accept pets, even though perpetrators of domestic violence frequently harm pets or use threats of violence against them as a means of controlling the animal’s owner. Because of this, domestic violence victims often remain in dangerous or abusive situations out of fear for what will happen to their pets if the animals are left behind.

The Pet and Women Safety Act (PAWS) is trying to change that. The aim of PAWS is to help protect victims of all types of domestic violence from the psychological and emotional trauma brought on by violence or threats of harm to their pets. In addition, this federal domestic violence protections bill would also offer funding via grants to shelters that provide accommodations for victims with pets.

Often, pets are considered members of the family, and many victims of domestic abuse find themselves forced to choose between fleeing for their own safety and leaving a beloved pet behind. Many women return to abusive situations or delay leaving to try to keep their pets from harm. On at least one occasion – and likely several more – this has had tragic results, as in the case of a New York woman who was killed by an abusive boyfriend when she returned to her home out of fear for her dog’s safety.

If passed, this bill, if enacted into law, would provide an extra level of protection for victims of domestic abuse. In the meantime, victims in violent situations who are concerned with the legal issues or logistics of their circumstances may find help by contacting a lawyer who deals with these specific types of family law issues. An attorney can offer guidance on navigating the family court process and/or securing a protection order.

Source: nymag.com, “PAWS Act Aims to Protect Domestic-Violence Victims’ Pets“, Gabriella Paiella, Feb. 9, 2017