The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act: extending protection to pets in battered women refuges

There are countless examples of what I would term “pet and partner abuse”. They go hand-in-hand. It is an international problem.

Abusive Home
Abusive Home
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Because there is a close connection between battered women in abusive homes and abused pets there is a need to extend battered women shelter accommodation to include their cats, dogs and other companion animals.

“Why doesn’t the victim just leave?”

The need is pressing because many women stay in abusive situations because emotionally they cannot move out to a shelter and leave their companion animal behind. In addition, cats and dogs often need protection to the same extent that an abused woman does.

To this end a bill has been introduced this week by U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. It is called The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act (H.R. 1258).

The Humane Society informs us that a mere three percent of domestic violence shelters in the USA allow companion animals to accompany their abused guardian. PAWS is designed to dramatically improve the situation.

It works by establishing a grant program which provides the means for women’s shelters to introduce accommodation for pets thereby encouraging the states to expand their own legal protection for companion animals.

A well-known study in 1997 concluded that 71-83% of women in domestic violence shelters had said that their partner had also threatened to kill or injure the family’s companion animal. An astonishingly high figure.

It is to be expected, though. A abusive partner is able to emotionally harm a woman through inflicting physical harm on her companion animal as well as physically hurting her. We see similar emotionally harmful behaviour by some women towards their male partner in divorces when they bar contact between former husband and the children.

In the UK, a survey of a few years ago said that there are 570,000 telephone calls to the police each year from women and occasionally men who are suffering domestic violence. Only 40.2% actually report the matter to the police. There is an expansion of women’s refuges in the UK which accommodate pets. There were 4 in 2008 and 73 in 2014.

Elisa wrote on this subject years ago. The Humane Society’s writer refers to a NY case in which a man slit the throat of his girlfriend’s cat and then threw the cat out of the window. Shortly thereafter, he then tried to strangle his girlfriend.

To be even handed, we all know that it is usually the man who is the abuser but it can work the other way around.

Source. My thanks to Sandy for pointing this news out to me.

2 thoughts on “The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act: extending protection to pets in battered women refuges”

  1. There are some UK schemes where the pet can be fostered until the abused person is able to set up home without the abuser and take the animal back. This is great, but even better if the pet can stay at the refuge with the owner, (and in many cases the children), as the comfort they would provide would be invaluble.

  2. This is really good news. Help for abused spouses/partners should be extended to their pets. I hope the idea spreads to many more refuges.


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