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New Federal Law Makes Threatening Pets Punishable by Prison

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Life has its ups and downs- and more often than not, our four-legged best friends are by our side through the good and the bad. For survivors of domestic violence, though, having a pet can be both a blessing and a curse. While a cat or a dog can help you go through a tough time, a pet can also be responsible for a person’s decision to stay in an abusive relationship. Only 3 percent of the US shelters accept people with pets, and victims fear to leave their pets behind with their abuser.

According to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control them”. Furthermore, “between 25% and 40% of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets”.

The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, which is included in the new Farm bill, is hoping to make things easier for survivors of domestic violence. Once the act is signed into the law, any act of threatening a person’s pet or emotional support animal will become punishable by up to five years in jail. To boot, this measure also authorizes spending $3 million a year for the next five years to create more pet-friendly women shelters.

No one can deny that pets are a great source of comfort and support for their owners, especially in difficult situations such as domestic violence. Passing an act that protects not only women from being psychologically controlled by their abuser, but their pets from potential violence at the abuser’s hands is a big step in the right direction. Hopefully, the PAWS Act will lead to more pet-friendly shelters opening all across the states. After all, no one should be forced to choose between their own safety and their pet’s.


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