We’re learning more tonight about a portion of the farm bill that protects animals of domestic violence victims. The “Paws” or Pets and Women Safety Act will give women options if they want to leave a violent situation, but have nowhere to take their animals. This could mean for victims is a little peace of mind knowing that their beloved pets are no longer in danger when they need to escape violence.
“They’re a source of emotional support to each other basically,” said Tanya Reagan.
Reagan is the manager of a women’s shelter. Animals aren’t allowed at the shelter which means the women there must leave them behind or find other arrangements, when they leave a violent situation. She said this can be traumatic for victims because their abusers will often use the pets to control them.
“It’s an avenue for further abuse. They will often times threaten the animal, abuse the animal, as a means of getting to the human victim.”
Nationally, a third of all domestic violence victims say they have stayed in a bad relationship, because of their pets. The PAWS act will help women’s shelters, and animal rescue groups create temporary housing, or a network of foster families to help care for the animals.
“The grant is great because hopefully there’ll be money attached to the ideas people have already.”
The PAWS act also re-defines stalking To include a victim’s pets. The Huntsville Animal Services said in domestic violence situations, animals are often abused too and pets need this protection.
“The grant will also allow prosecutors to include those type threats and any evidence they find that the animal has actually been injured. That will be included in the criminal case,” said Karen Sheppard the director of animal services for the city.
WAAY 31 tried to find a shelter in the city that accepts victims and pets, but did not find any. The women’s shelter sometimes works with the Arc to find housing solutions for pets in domestic violence situations.