Peters Tours Bay Area Women’s Center, Highlights Legislation Signed into Law to Protect Survivors of Domestic Violence & Pets

BAY CITY, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today toured the Bay Area Women’s Center in Bay City to learn more about their programs to help domestic violence survivors and highlight his bipartisan legislation recently signed into law to strengthen current federal domestic violence protections to encompass threats or acts of violence against a victim’s pet. The Bay Area Women’s Center partners with numerous local organizations, including the Judy V. Spencer Fund, to help ensure pets of domestic violence survivors are properly cared while the pet owner stays in a shelter.

“Too many Americans have faced the heartbreaking dilemma of either remaining in a toxic, abusive relationship, or risking the safety and well-being of their pet,” said Senator Peters. “I applaud the Bay Area Women’s Center for all they do to help ensure survivors can escape their domestic violence abuse. I’ll continue working to ensure shelters have the resources needed to assist and support survivors and their pets.”

“The Bay Area Women’s Center has encountered too many survivors who are hesitant to leave an abusive situation because they would be leaving a pet in the home,” said Jeremy Rick, Executive Director, Bay Area Women’s Center. “We appreciate Senator Peters shining a light on this issue. We want to build on our current efforts so that more survivors in the area know that they can seek safety because their pet will also be safe from the violence.”

The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act that was signed into law last month aims to bolster organizations like the Women’s Center by allocating funds to facilities that shelter survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence and their pets, or are looking to do so. The PAWS Act expands existing federal domestic violence protections to include threats or acts of violence against a survivor’s pet, and provides grant funding to programs that offer shelter and housing assistance for domestic violence survivors with pets. The bill also permits survivors to collect restitution for veterinary services resulting from domestic violence or stalking offenses.

Multiple studies have shown that domestic abusers often seek to manipulate or intimidate their victims by threatening or harming their pets, but according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), only three percent of domestic violence shelters across the country accept pets. The ASPCA reported that a study in Wisconsin found 68 percent of domestic violence survivors reported their abusers were also violent towards their animals. A similar study found that as many as 25 percent of domestic violence survivors have returned to an abusive partner out of concern for their pet. A separate 2007 study found that as many as one-third of domestic abuse survivors reported they delayed leaving an abuser for an average of two years out of concern for the safety of their pet.

The PAWS Act 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.