A new law will support domestic violence victims and their pets. There will also be new penalties for violating a protection order against a pet.

A new bill, The Pets and Women Safety Act (PAWS), was signed into law by President Trump on Thursday, December 20, 2018, and will help domestic violence victims with pets get into a safe shelter. PAWS mimics legislation in 33 states, plus the nation’s capital and Puerto Rico, that include various protections for pets in domestic violence orders and funding for sheltering.

PAWS aims to protect victims of partner violence. Research shows that abusers inflict violence on pets as a way to intimidate or exert control over their partners. WTVR reports the co-sponsor of the bill Rep. Katherine Clark as saying:

“No one should have to make the choice between finding safety and staying in a violent situation to protect their pet...This law empowers survivors with the resources to leave a dangerous situation while being able to continue to care for their pet. I’m grateful for the partnerships we’ve formed between organizations working to end both domestic violence and animal abuse. Together, we will help save lives.”

In 2015 NYS signed a bill into law allowing a domestic violence victim entering a residential domestic violence program to be accompanied by a service animal or therapy dog, as defined in NYS Agriculture and Markets Law.

The new 2019 federal bill will expand federal domestic violence protections to include protections for the pets of domestic violence victims. It creates a federal grant program to help domestic violence programs assist clients in finding shelter for their pets when they leave their abusers.

Nancy Blaney, director of government affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute tells WTVR:

"Some shelters provide onsite housing for animals, such as separate kennels or facilities where clients can stay with pets; or, they help clients find foster homes or safe havens during their stay, but the need for pet sheltering options exceeds demand. Often, victims will stay with an abusive partner to avoid being separated from their pets when sheltering options are not available...They will do anything to protect their animals because often that pet is often the only positive thing in their lives.”

 

PAWS will support the construction and operating expenses of new or existing pet shelter and housing. It also supports short-term shelter and housing assistance, such as expenses incurred for the temporary shelter, housing, boarding or fostering of the pets of domestic violence victims. It will amend the definition of stalking in the federal criminal code to include “conduct that causes a person to experience a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to his or her pet.” There will also be a new criminal penalty for those who travel across state lines with the intent of violating a protection order against a pet.

According to the Saf-T-Program, there are currently no domestic violence shelters in CNY who accepts animals:

New York

Urban Resource Institute (New York City) 646-588-0030

A New Hope Center (Owego) 800-696-7600

Willow Domestic Violence Center (Rochester) 585-222-SAFE

[WTVR, SAF-T-PROGRAM, Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence]