We were thrilled to host Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark at MSPCA-Angell West to celebrate the inclusion of her PAWS amendment, which protects both domestic violence survivors and their pets from their abusers, in the Federal Farm Bill, now on the President’s desk for signature.
The federal PAWS (Pet and Women Safety) Act ensures that survivors of domestic abuse do not have to choose between finding safety and remaining in a violent situation to protect their pet. Research shows that 20-65% of domestic violence victims delay leaving a dangerous situation out of serious concern for what would happen to their pets.
Congresswoman Clark’s bill protects animals by extending the interstate stalking and interstate violation of protection orders to include “a pet, a service animal, an emotional support animal, or a horse.” PAWS will also will require a grant program be developed to award grants to provide assistance with respect to victims of domestic violence and pets. The grants can be used for emergency and transitional shelter and housing assistance for domestic violence victims with pets and the training of specialized support personnel.
The MSPCA worked with Congresswoman Clark when she was a state representative and then a state senator to pass legislation that addresses the link between animal abuse and violence toward people. In 2012, her bill passed that allows pets to be included in domestic violence protection orders. This means the abuser not only has to stay away from the victim, but the victim’s pets as well, protecting both animals and people.
This work on “the link” has continued. The recently passed PAWS II law includes provisions based on the recognition of this link; for example, the dangerousness statute has been amended to include the crimes of animal cruelty and fighting as specifically enumerated offenses to serve as the basis for a request for a determination to release or require bail while and alleged offender awaits trial. Additionally, a commission formed with PAWS II is currently evaluating and working to facility the “cross-reporting” of different types of abuse and neglect, recognizing that abuse doesn’t usually happen in a vacuum. This commission is evaluating training and reporting of elders, disabled persons, children and animals. As of November 8, the date PAWS II went into effect, Elder Affairs and Disabled Person Protection Commission investigators may report suspected animal cruelty. The Department of Children and Families could already report. PAWS II also made animal control officers mandated reporters of elder, disabled persons, and child abuse and neglect.
The link between human abuse and animal abuse has been thoroughly documented, which has enabled advocates to form policy and programs that recognize and address these issues. Northeastern University and the MSPCA conducted a landmark study to examine the relationship between violence against animals and crime in the general. The study showed that 70 percent of individuals who committed crimes against animals had also been involved in other violent, property, drug, or disorderly crimes. It found that people who abuse animals are five times more likely to commit a violent act against a person. This, and other studies, have helped “the link” gain more recognition.
We hope that Congresswoman Clark’s amendment, and the work done by the MSPCA will better protect the citizens of Massachusetts – both those who have two legs and those who have four.