25 August 2016

LEGISLATION - Pet and Women Safety Act Offers Hope to Victims

Domestic violence is an epidemic that impacts people regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or nationality.

According to statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men suffer violence from an intimate partner at some point in their lives.

However, domestic violence disproportionately impacts women in relationships with men, and according to the 2014 Special Report on Nonfatal Domestic Violence, women were significantly more likely to face “serious domestic violence” than men – 37% versus 10%. As well, 76% of incidents of intimate partner violence were directed against women.

Compounding the problem is the fact that according to the Urban Resource Institute, 40% of domestic violence victims stay with abusers out of fear of what might happen to their pets if they left them behind.

When victims are unable to bring their pets with them, they are often effectively held hostage by the abuser’s threats and violence against their pet. Abusers often threaten pets, children, and other loved ones in an effort to maintain control of their victim.

A new bill proposed by Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) offers hope for victims of domestic violence.

The bill, called the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, would prohibit threats or acts of violence against pets, and would demand that perpetrators pay for the veterinary costs for pets of a domestic violence survivor.

The bill doesn’t just focus on individual survivors and their pets, it also provides funding for housing programs and support services.

The link between domestic violence and violence against pets is very real.

In studies as far back as 1983, this link has been found again and again. One study found that in 88% of families where child abuse was a factor, companion animal abuse was also present.

A 2004 study conducted by researchers in Alberta, Canada confirmed earlier research and found that animal abuse is frequently present in situations of domestic violence, and that fears for animal safety can cause victims to delay the decision to seek shelter.

Although there is still a deficit in co-sheltering facilities across North America, the PAWS Act would make it possible for more victims of domestic violence to leave an abusive situation without leaving their pets behind.

By Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

1 comment:

  1. In 2014, the Alberta SPCA began a pet safekeeping program that offers temporary care for the pets of domestic violence victims who need to escape their abusive situations and have no other place for their pets. More information about the program is available at http://albertaspca.org/about/programs-services/pet-safekeeping.html.
    The need for a pet safekeeping program was identified in the 2012 Alberta SPCA report "Inside the Cruelty Connection: The Role of Animals in Decision-Making by Domestic Violence Victims in Rural Alberta." This report highlights the additional difficulties faced by victims of domestic violence when animals are involved. It is available at http://albertaspca.org/resources/publications/InsideTheCrueltyConnection.pdf.
    More information about the Alberta SPCA's resources and research into the "cruelty connection" is available at http://albertaspca.org/cruelty.