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Peters Leads Bipartisan Legislation to Reauthorize Funding for PAWS Act to Support Survivors of Domestic Violence & Their Pets

Peters Previously Authored and Passed the Bipartisan PAWS Act into Law; Now Working to Extend Federal Support for the Program

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the grant program established by the Protecting Animals with Shelter (PAWS) Act to help protect domestic violence survivors and their pets. Peters created this program, known as the Emergency and Transitional Pet Shelter and Housing Assistance Grant Program, through bipartisan legislation he authored into law – called the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act – which provides funding for facilities that harbor survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence, along with their pets. Since the grant program was first funded in 2020, there has consistently been high-demand from shelters for PAWS funding. Peters – along with U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) – is now leading the effort to extend federal support for the program by reauthorizing $3 million for the program annually over the next five years.

“No person should ever have to choose between leaving an abusive relationship or staying and risking their safety in order to protect their pets,” said Senator Peters. “That’s why I previously authored the law to create this needed program, and why I’m now fighting to ensure facilities in Michigan and around the country have the federal support they need to continue providing safe havens for not only survivors, but their pets too.”

Research has shown that domestic abusers often seek to manipulate or intimidate victims by threatening or harming their pets – with one study finding that up to 84 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported their partners had threatened, abused, or killed the family pet. Moreover, nearly half of survivors report having stayed with their abuser due to fear over what would happen to their pet. A 2007 study found that as many as one-third of domestic abuse survivors reportedly delayed leaving their abuser for an average of two years out of concern for the safety of their pet. Research has also indicated that domestic violence increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of individuals being sheltered at home with abusive partners.

However, most domestic violence shelters are not equipped to accommodate pets. The Emergency and Transitional Pet Shelter and Housing Assistance Grant Program – created by Peters’ PAWS Act – helps address this gap by providing support to ensure shelters and transitional housing services can accommodate victims of domestic violence and their companion animals.

Peters’ PAWS Act also expanded existing federal domestic violence protections to include threats or acts of violence against a survivor’s pet. The law additionally requires the full amount of the survivor’s losses for purposes of restitution in domestic violence and stalking offenses to include any costs incurred for veterinary services relating to physical care for the survivor’s pet.

The PAWS Act law is supported by a number of organizations, including the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the National Link Coalition, the Sheltering Animals & Families Together (SAF-T) Program, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute, RedRover, the National Animal Care & Control Association, the National District Attorneys Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, YWCA USA, the American Kennel Club, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the National Sheriffs’ Association.