Rep. Katherine Clark celebrated a long-sought legislative success Tuesday with adorable shelter dogs at an MSPCA center in Waltham.
But aside from her cuddly surroundings, the expected passage of her Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act is something the Massachusetts congresswoman says will have a real, serious impact for pet owners impacted by domestic violence.
According to Clark, many women trying to escape an abusive relationship are faced with the “unthinkable” idea of leaving their pet behind in a dangerous situation. According to one anecdotal study, up to 25 percent of domestic violence survivors reported having returned to an abusive relationship in the past out of concern for their animals.
“For most pet owners, including me, their dog or cat is a part of their family,” the 5th District congresswoman, who has a rescue dog named Bodie, said in a statement Tuesday.
Her bill attempts to ensure that women aren’t forced to chose between their own safety and the safety of their pet, by expanding legal protections for the pets of domestic violence victims and establishing a federal grant program to provide shelter and housing assistance for domestic violence victims with pets. Currently, only 3 percent of domestic violence shelters nationwide can accommodate pets, according to Clark’s office.
“This law empowers survivors with the resources to leave a dangerous situation while being able to continue to care for their family,” she said Tuesday.
The PAWS Act, which Clark first introduced in 2014, was among a number of major animal welfare-related provisions included in the sprawling, bipartisan farm bill that President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law Thursday.
The Melrose Democrat’s proposal was co-sponsored by more than half of the House — 188 Democrats and 62 Republicans — and was endorsed by a coalition of domestic violence and animal welfare advocates, including the MSPCA-Angell, which hosted Tuesday’s event with a handful of shelter dogs looking for a home at their medical center in Waltham.
“I’m grateful for the partnerships we’ve formed between organizations working to end both domestic violence and animal abuse,” Clark said. “Together, we crafted a bill that will help save lives.”