Senate passes Warner-Kaine sponsored bill to aid domestic violence survivors

Mark Warner, Tim Kaine on continuing resolutionThe U.S. Senate passed bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence from emotional and psychological trauma caused by violence against their pets. The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act was included in the 2018 Farm Bill passed by the Senate on a bipartisan 86-11 vote and now moves to the House for consideration.  

“We are pleased that the Senate passed this bipartisan legislation, which will help domestic violence survivors flee their abusers without having to compromise the safety of their beloved family pets,” the Senators said. “This is a step forward in solving this serious, yet often overlooked problem, and we look forward to seeing this bill signed into law.”

Multiple studies have shown that domestic abusers often seek to manipulate or intimidate their victims by threatening or harming their pets, but according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), only three percent of domestic violence shelters across the country accept pets. Many victims choose not to leave their home if they cannot take their pets with them.

The PAWS Act expands existing federal domestic violence protections to include threats or acts of violence against a victim’s pet, and provides grant funding to programs that offer shelter and housing assistance for domestic violence victims with pets. The bill also requires the full amount of the victim’s losses for purposes of restitution in domestic violence and stalking offenses to include any costs incurred for veterinary services relating to physical care for the victim’s pet. The 2018 Farm Bill authorizes $3 million a year for a FY19-23 grant program that will provide emergency and transitional housing assistance for victims of domestic violence and their pets.

The PAWS Act is supported by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the ASPCA, 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 (SAF-T) Program, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute, RedRover, the National Animal Care & Control Association, the National District Attorneys Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, YWCA USA, the American Kennel Club, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the National Sheriffs’ Association.

Sheltering services currently assist the victims of domestic violence who would be aided by the PAWS Act by placing their companion animals out of harm’s way so that they may seek safety for themselves. A list of these “safe havens” in Virginia can be found here.

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