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The American Kennel Club supports a bill filed in the United States House of Representatives that would add federal protections for the pets of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence.   

Known as the “Pet and Women Safety Act of 2015” (PAWS), H.R. 1258 is principally sponsored by Congresswoman Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.  The popular measure has 48 co-sponsors and is supported by numerous local and national domestic violence, animal welfare, and professional organizations.

For some time, the AKC has recognized the multi-faceted dilemma involving pets and domestic violence.  Sociological and psychological studies show that a significant percentage of cases involving family victims also involve threats to the wellbeing of animals and/or actual harm having been perpetrated against pets. In many cases, 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. In helping  address this troubling reality, the AKC Humane Fund has been a leader in providing grants to shelters to assist with arrangements for caring for the pets of domestic violence victims (link to brochure pdf) . The AKC is pleased to see legislation that will help expand such efforts nationwide.

Bill Summary

In addition to encouraging states to include pets in protections against violence or threatening acts, H.R. 1258 would:

For purposes of Title 18, Chapter 110A on Domestic Violence and Stalking, define “pet” as a domesticated animal, such as a dog, cat, bird, rodent, fish, turtle, horse, or other animal that is kept for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes. 

Add pets to the list of those protected under the federal stalking statute.  The addition would mean that an individual would be subject to fines and/or imprisonment if they—through travel, or by using electronic communications or other means—place another in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury, or cause substantial emotional distress to that person, an immediate family member or spouse/intimate partner of that person, or their pet. 

Include pets as the subject of protection orders, so that a person who commits an interstate violation of a protection order would be subject to fines and/or imprisonment. 

Amend the section on restitution owed to a victim by including veterinary services relating to the physical care of a victim’s pet that results from an offense. 

Create an Emergency and Transitional Pet Shelter and Housing Assistance Grant Program to award grants to eligible entities to carry out programs to provide assistance to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and their pets.  The bill provides for $3,000,000 in funding for each of the first four years of the program.  Entities eligible to participate include states; general units of local governments; Indian tribes; or any other organization that has a documented history of effective work concerning domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  Such organizations include domestic violence and sexual assault victim service providers, domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions, community-based and culturally-specific organizations, any other non-profit non-governmental organization, and any other organization that works directly with pets and collaborates with aforementioned organizations, including animal shelters and animal welfare organizations. 

H.R. 1258 has been assigned to both the United States House Judiciary and Agriculture Committees.  While the bill has not yet been scheduled for consideration, AKC’s Government Relations (AKC GR) Department will continue to provide information on the bill when it is scheduled for consideration. 

For more information about AKC Humane Fund Grants for Domestic  Violence Shelters  or recipients of grants, visit the AKC Humane Fund. For more information about HR 1258, contact AKC GR at (919) 816-3720, or email doglaw@akc.org.  

The American Kennel Club supports a bill filed in the United States House of Representatives that would add federal protections for the pets of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us at enewsletter@akc.org
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