Every nine seconds in the U.S., a woman is assaulted or beaten. That totals more than 4 million battered women per year in this country. And approximately 1 million animals are abused each year because of domestic violence. Did you know that only 3% of domestic abuse shelters offer accommodations for pets? Sadly, in many of these types of cases, pets suffer at the hands of the abusers as well. Pets are often used as a pawn to make the victim stay and not leave the toxic environment, fearing what might happen if they do. But a new bill aims to change that, and save the lives of both humans and animals.
The PAWS (Pet and Women Safety) Act
This bill amends the federal criminal code to broaden the definition of stalking to include conduct that causes a person to experience a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to his or her pet.
Additionally, an interstate violation of a protection order includes interstate travel with the intent to violate a protection order against a pet that is included within the scope of the protection order. The bill specifies the applicable criminal penalty—a prison term of up to five years, a fine, or both—for a person who commits an interstate violation of a protection order against a pet.
With respect to a defendant who commits a domestic violence offense or an interstate violation of a protection order, mandatory restitution in the “full amount of victim’s losses” includes costs incurred for veterinary services related to the pet.
The bill directs the Department of Agriculture to award grants for shelter and housing assistance and support services for domestic violence victims with pets.
Finally, it expresses the sense of Congress that states should include, in domestic violence protection orders, protections against violence or threats against a person’s pet.
You can support the PAWS Act here.