Recent events have moved domestic violence out of the shadows and into public consciousness where it can be addressed as the serious crime that it is. But still hidden from view is an all-too-real obstacle many survivors face when trying to leave their abusive partners: the fear that those partners will harm or kill their companion animals.
Removing this roadblock is essential to the safety of these survivors. Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced H.R. 5267, the Pet and Women Safety Act, to help programs provide shelter and housing assistance for the companion animals of victims of domestic violence. The bill also takes the important step of including pets in federal law pertaining to interstate stalking, protection order violations, and restitution, and urges states to allow pets to be included under protection orders.
As many as 48 percent of the battered women responding to surveys reported they had delayed leaving a dangerous situation out of concern for their pets’ safety. In other surveys of domestic violence victims, between 49 percent and 71 percent reported that their pets had been threatened, harmed, or killed by their partners. In a national survey, 85 percent of domestic violence shelters indicated that women coming to their facilities spoke of incidents of pet abuse.
Clearly, if shelters and other service providers are better able to assist domestic violence survivors with finding a safe place for their pets, they will be better able to bring everyone to safety. H.R. 5267 will greatly increase their capacity to meet these many needs.