Peters Previously Authored and Passed the Bipartisan PAWS Act into Law
WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate has passed a package of bipartisan government funding bills that includes U.S. Senator Gary Peters’ (MI) amendment to provide $3 million for a grant program that helps protect domestic violence survivors and their pets. Peters created the Emergency and Transitional Pet Shelter and Housing Assistance Grant Program through bipartisan legislation he authored into law in 2018 – called the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act. This program provides funding for facilities that harbor survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence, along with their pets. Research has shown that domestic abusers often seek to manipulate or intimidate victims by threatening or harming their pets, however many domestic violence shelters are not equipped to accommodate pets.
“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. “I fought to secure this $3 million in federal funds to ensure that facilities in Michigan and around the country can continue to have the support they need to provide safe havens not only for survivors, but their pets too.”
Since the grant program was first funded in 2020, there has consistently been high-demand from shelters for funding. However, without Peters’ efforts, the program would not have received federal funding for the upcoming year. Peters’ Senate-approved amendment secured $3 million in federal funding for the program for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2024. Peters is additionally leading the charge to reauthorize funding for the program at $3 million annually over five years, starting in Fiscal Year 2025, to ensure funding remains available. The legislation passed by the Senate also included federal funding for military construction, as well as the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. The House of Representatives must pass its own government funding bills before a final funding plan can be finalized between the two chambers.
The Emergency and Transitional Pet Shelter and Housing Assistance Grant Program created by Peters’ Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act helps ensure shelters and transitional housing services can accommodate victims of domestic violence and their companion animals. Research has found 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.
Peters’ PAWS Act also expands 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.