Last month, Republicans ruined a perfectly good bipartisan anti-sex trafficking bill by attaching amendments aimed at denying abortions to trafficking victims. After that debacle, you might have given up all hope for an across-the-aisle approach to reducing violence against women. But Annamarya Scaccia at RH Reality Checkreports on a quiet but important bill, introduced by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), that should appeal to victims’ advocates and animal lovers alike. The bill is called the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, and it would give grant money to domestic violence shelters to set up programs for victims who need to bring pets with them when they escape.
“Less than 5 percent of domestic violence shelters nationwide house pets,” Scaccia reports, ” … but a real need exists for more: Research by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) shows between 18 and 48 percent of survivors delay vacating abusive situations because they fear their pet would be in danger if left behind.”
As the ASPCA explains, men who beat women often beat and even kill those women’s pets. In one study in Wisconsin, the ASPCA reports, “68 percent of battered women revealed that abusive partners had also been violent toward pets or livestock; more than three-quarters of these cases occurred in the presence of the women and/or children to intimidate and control them.”
It makes a grotesque kind of sense: Most of us love and want to protect our pets, and abusers are going to see that love as a weakness to be exploited. The fear that your abuser will hurt your pets to retaliate against you for leaving is very real, and in many cases, that threat is explicitly issued. And of course, abusive households can be just as stressful for pets as people.