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WPDVP- Women & Pet Domestic Violence Prevention

Domestic violence is not as simple as one partner physically harming another. Instead, it consists of a complex range of controlling behaviors including physical, emotional, sexual, and economic maltreatment as well as isolation, blaming, intimidation, threats, and minimizing/denying behaviors. In addition to the controlling behaviors reported by women seeking shelter from violent relationships, a growing body of research indicates some individuals who abuse their intimate partner also abuse their pets. This study explores these connections using reports of 1,283 female pet owners seeking refuge from their male batterer in a domestic violence shelter. Findings indicate that batterers who also abuse their pet (a) use more forms of violence and (b) demonstrate greater use of controlling behaviors than batterers who do not abuse their pets​.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the Farm Bill) after advocating for legislation to better protect domestic violence survivors by establishing the critical importance of protecting their pets, too. With the inclusion of key elements of the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act (H.R. 909, S.322) in the Farm Bill, Congress took an essential step in removing a roadblock to the safety of these survivors with pets.

The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act aims to protect domestic violence survivors and their pets, and it was just passed by Congress. "Survivors of domestic violence should never have to decide between leaving an abusive relationship or staying and risking their safety to protect their pets," U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) said.

Only 3% of U.S. domestic violence shelters accept pets. These organizations have saved more than 1,500 pets from abusive conditions. The ultimate goal of the PAWS Act is that no domestic violence survivor should be forced to choose between staying in an abusive relationship and leaving their pet with their abuser.

The PAWS Act Coalition members have been working to promote awareness and encourage support for the legislation, with 247 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 37 in the Senate. There is now new momentum with the bill’s language included in this inclusion in the Farm Bill passed by senate.