PAWS Act Coalition Lauds Passage of Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020
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The PAWS Act Coalition is celebrating the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020, which will provide $2 million in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants to enable more domestic violence shelters to become pet friendly. The grants come one year after the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act was authorized as part of the 2019 Farm Bill, which received bipartisan support in its passage.
Up to 65 percent of domestic violence victims remain in abusive situations out of fear for their pets’ safety, according to officials.
“These new grants will help expand the network of domestic violence shelters which allow pets to accompany their families seeking safe shelter,” said Nina Leigh Krueger, president of Nestlé Purina PetCare, a member of the PAWS Act Coalition. “This is an important milestone in the coalition’s collective efforts to create safer communities for pets and pet owners, and Purina will remain steadfast in our commitment to protecting the bond between domestic abuse survivors and their pets by ensuring they can safely heal together.”
The PAWS Act Coalition officials thanked the original co-sponsors of the PAWS Act for their leadership and commitment to its passage, especially the lead sponsors Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA-5), Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and former Senator Dean Heller (R-NV). Officials said that they are also particularly grateful for Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) for spearheading the effort to pass the bill by including its language in the Farm Bill.
“No one should have to make the choice between finding safety and staying in a violent situation to protect their pet,” Clark said. “This law and the newly appropriated federal dollars will empower survivors with the resources to leave a dangerous situation while being able to continue to care for their pet. I’m grateful for the partnerships we’ve formed between organizations working to end both domestic violence and animal abuse. Together, we will help save lives.”
The USDA will now be able to move forward to establish grants for domestic violence shelters to carry out programs to provide emergency and transitional shelter and housing assistance or short-term shelter and housing assistance for domestic violence victims with pets, service animals, emotional support animals, or horses, officials said. Grants awarded may also be used for programs that provide support services designed to enable someone fleeing domestic violence to locate and secure safe housing with their pet, safe accommodations for their pet, or related services such as transportation and other assistance, officials added.
“The PAWS Act Coalition looks forward to working with USDA and other federal agencies to support implementation of the PAWS Act grant program and to helping raise awareness of this important effort among the domestic violence shelter and the pet care community,” said Steven Feldman, executive director of HABRI. “This funding will support real, life-saving change for domestic violence survivors and the pets that bring them so much joy and comfort.”
Noah’s Animal House and Urban Resource Institute are part of the only 10 percent of domestic violence shelters across the country that actively offer co-shelter services to keep both pets and their owners away from the dangers of domestic abuse, according to officials.
“As we’ve seen throughout the past six years of running URI’s PALS (People and Animals Living Safely) Program, abusers often threaten to harm or inflict violence on a pet in order to control their victims,” said Nathaniel Fields, president and CEO of URI. “Not only do pet-friendly domestic violence shelters provide a critical avenue for escape, but they also channel the healing power of the human-pet bond during times of crisis and transition. The passage of the PAWS Act is an exciting milestone in this coalition’s work to ensure that all individuals seeking shelter from abuse and their beloved pets can live the safest, fullest lives possible.”
Staci Columbo Alonso, founder of Noah’s Animal House, said, “Since 2007, Noah’s Animal House has cared for over 1,400 pets of domestic violence victims from 21 states across the U.S, in addition to our home state of Nevada. Women drove thousands of miles from Florida, Oklahoma, Maine, Texas and others, driving past other women’s shelters in every state for one reason only—their pet had to be included in their escape plan. With the passing of the PAWS Act, more local women’s shelters can become pet friendly.”
Annie Peters, CEO of Pet Partners, thanked their grassroots advocates.
“In support of the PAWS Act Coalition, Pet Partners grassroots advocates made their voices heard during every step of the legislative process—recruiting key co-sponsors in the Senate, supporting passage of the Senate Farm Bill, targeting members of the Conference Committee and building support in communities across the country,” Peters said. “Thanks to their efforts, many thousands of constituent messages, tweets and phone calls to Congress were made emphasizing the importance of these provisions. Pet Partners is grateful for their actions that will help pets and people remain together in traumatic situations—when they need each other most.”