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Pets Need Shielding from Domestic Violence



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Pets are beloved members of the family, even when families break down. This is certainly true when women and their pets experience domestic violence. Millions of women in the U.S. experience physical violence by an intimate partner every year, according to a study cited in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in September 2014. Pets are caught in the crossfire, with 71 percent of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reporting that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims, the American Humane Association reported in a 2006 study.

Right now, very few domestic violence shelters allow pets. This can force women into the agonizing choice of leaving a pet behind. But many survivors won’t do that, even if it means remaining in harm’s way. Forty-eight percent of domestic violence survivors report that they are unable to escape their abusers because they are concerned about what will happen to their pets when they leave, the Rose Brooks Center reported.

Earlier this year, the Pet and Women Safety Act, H.R. 909/S.322 (PAWS Act) was reintroduced in Congress. This bill will help protect victims of domestic violence from emotional and psychological trauma caused by acts of violence or threats of violence against their pets by establishing a federal grant program to help ensure that domestic violence survivors have access to safe shelters for their pets.

Pet care companies, including Nestlé Purina and Bayer, are taking action by supporting shelters that can accommodate pets and by pushing for federal legislation.

As a nonprofit research organization, the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) has gathered compelling scientific information that demonstrates how pets are beneficial to human health and wellness, including positive benefits for victims of trauma. This scientific data is further reason to support passage of the PAWS Act. Simply put, our pets are there for us when we need them, and now we have an opportunity to be there for them.

My experience is that people in the pet industry care deeply and passionately about animals, so I know that many who read this will answer the call to support the PAWS Act. You can start by taking a few minutes to send a message to your member of Congress. Together, we can work to protect pets and people!

Steven Feldman is executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). HABRI is working to establish, through science and advocacy, the vital role of companion animals in the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. To learn more about HABRI, visit habri.org.

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