In the most recent of several initiatives to recognize the canine-human bond and to protect pets and their owners, the American Kennel Club has announced strong support for federal legislation (HB 1258) that would protect the pets of victims of domestic violence.
The 2015 Pet and Women Safety Act (the 2015 "PAWS" act), sponsored by Congresswomen Katherine Clark and Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, would amend current federal domestic violence protections to include pets in protection orders for human victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence.
Under HB 1258, a person who commits an interstate violation of a protection order would be subject to fines and/or imprisonment and restitution for veterinary care of a victim’s pet that was harmed as the result of an offense. It also creates an Emergency and Transitional Pet Shelter and Housing Assistance Grant Program to award grants for programs to provide assistance to victims of crimes related to stalking and domestic violence and establishes that states should encourage the inclusion of protections against violent or threatening acts against the pet of the person in domestic violence protection orders. Finally, it also encourages states to expand their legal protections for the pets of domestic violence victims.
For some time, the AKC has recognized the complex dilemma involving pets and domestic violence. Sociological and psychological studies show that a significant percentage of domestic violence cases involving family victims also involve threats and/or actual harm perpetrated against pets. Far too often, victims of domestic abuse are reluctant to leave a dangerous situation for fear of the fate of a pet left behind. However, many domestic abuse shelters in the United States are not adequately equipped to provide housing for pets accompanying human victims.
Since 2010, The AKC Humane Fund has been a leader in advocating and helping to address this issue. The AKC Humane Fund has provided more than 80 grants to shelters, women’s organizations and related groups to assist with arrangements for caring for the pets of domestic violence victims.
The AKC Board of Directors re-emphasized its commitment to these concerns at its April Board meeting with the approval of a new Canine Legislation Position Statement on Protections for Pets Under Domestic Violence Acts.
The AKC is proud to be a leader in this area, and is committed to helping that advance this measure and a similar measure in the U.S. Senate, as well as measures at the state level that protect pets and their owners, advance the human-canine bond and ensure the wellbeing of all dogs.