Peters Fighting to Reauthorize His PAWS Act that Provides Funding to Shelters & Organizations Supporting Domestic Violence Survivors & Their Pets
WALKER, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) toured the Humane Society of West Michigan in Walker to highlight the need to reauthorize the federal grant program established by his Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act that helps protect domestic violence survivors and their pets. The program provides funding to facilities that harbor survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence, along with their pets, as well as the animal shelters that partner with domestic violence service providers. Since the grant program was first funded, there has consistently been high demand for PAWS funding. Peters is now leading the effort to protect federal funding for the program by reauthorizing $3 million for the program annually over the next five years.
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 reported having stayed with their abuser due to fear over what would happen to their pet. During today’s event, Peters learned how the Humane Society of West Michigan assists victims of domestic violence through its Providing Emergency Temporary Shelter (PETS) Network, a program that accepts pets affected by a number of situations, including in cases of domestic violence.
“Domestic violence is sadly an issue that is all too prevalent in our communities. Unfortunately, we know that in cases of abuse, pets are likely to also become targets, and that abusers will use violence against animals to exert control over their victims.” said Senator Peters. “To me, it’s simple: protecting the PAWS Act means protecting survivors and protecting their pets. That’s why I’m now fighting to pass new, bipartisan legislation that would reauthorize the program for the next 5 years and ensure that these resources remain available for shelters in Michigan and across the country.”
“Our PETS Program can provide an important resource for survivors of domestic violence and help them begin a new chapter of their lives while knowing their pets are safe,” said Tania Jaczkowski, Executive Director of the Humane Society of West Michigan. “We thank Senator Peters for his leadership on the PAWS Act, which is helping to create programs like ours across the country.”
“In my role, I see firsthand how critical our emergency pet shelter can be in situations of domestic violence,” said Ashley Dahl, Director of Community Programs at the Humane Society of West Michigan. “Grant programs like the one created by Senator Peters’ PAWS Act will keep victims of domestic violence and their pets safe.”
“When a victim is deciding whether or not to get the help they need, making sure they can find a safe home for their pet is often a key factor in the process,” said Charisse Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer of the YWCA of West Central Michigan. “We are proud of our partnership with the Humane Society of West Michigan, which helps connect victims with the resources they need to protect their pets. Thank you to Senator Peters for your efforts to reauthorize the PAWS Act, and for being here today to highlight this important issue.”
Currently, 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. The PAWS Actalso expanded existing federal domestic violence protections to include threats or acts of violence against a survivor’s pet. The law 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 Actlaw 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.
Protecting animal welfare is something that Peters has long made a priority. In 2022, he introduced the Planning for Animal Wellness Act which was passed by Congress and signed into law. This law helps protect pets and other animals during and in the aftermath of natural disasters by requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to establish an advisory group to offer guidance regarding animal welfare in federal disaster preparedness, response and recovery.
To download photos from the event, click here.