Are There Options For Domestic Violence Victims Who Fear For Their Pets?
In late December, the Pets and Women Safety Act (PAWS) was signed into law. The legislation protects victims of domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual assault from emotional and psychological trauma by acts of violence or threats against them or their pets by establishing a federal grant program to help cover housing costs for them and their pets.
The philosophy behind the measure is that victims of domestic violence are often reticent to leave a dangerous household for fear that they will leave their pet behind in a dangerous situation. In fact, according to research associated with the legislation, 33 percent of survivors delay leaving a dangerous situation due to worries over their pets, and many domestic abuse shelters all over the country do not accept pets (in fact, only around three percent accept them). In addition, research also shows that abusers inflict violence onto pets as a way to control their human victims. Therefore, by enabling victims to take their pets with them, you enable them to seek help.
How It Changes the Law & Provides Victims with More Rights
The Act increases protections by expanding the definition of “stalking” at the federal level to include and criminalize “conduct that causes a person to experience a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to their pet,” including traveling across interstate lines in order to harm a pet. If someone does intend to harm a pet covered under a protection order, they face additional prison time. In addition, anyone who commits violence against a pet or violates the protection order has to cover the cost of the animal’s veterinary care, as the Act includes the cost of vet services in the restitution for victims’ overall losses.
Perhaps most importantly, the Act creates a fund—$3 million per year from 2017 to 2021—to cover shelter costs for facilities that accept pets and/or other boarding costs. The grant program specifically supports the construction of new pet shelters and housing and adds to existing funds for housing assistance for domestic violence victims. It also encourages states to include threats of and violence committed against pets in protection orders. Currently, 33 states include laws that allow for language addressing pet protection to be included in domestic violence orders, as well as funding for shelters.
Contact Our Florida Domestic Violence Attorneys to Find Out More
Domestic violence is a pattern of abuse used to control someone, but the law can help: both federal and state laws exist to provide for protection orders and other measures.
If you or a loved one is the victim of domestic violence, contact our experience Orlando domestic violence lawyers at the Arwani Law Firm, PLLC today for assistance in ensuring that you and all your loved ones—including those on four legs—are covered under a protection order.