American Humane Creates New Pet Initiative

The Pets and Women's Shelters Program will promote on-site housing of pets.

Posted: February 18 2008 2 a.m. EDT

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As part of its work to raise awareness about the human-animal bond, the American Humane Association has created a national initiative to promote on-site housing of pets at women’s shelters. The Pets and Women’s Shelters Program (PAWS), when implemented by domestic violence shelters, will provide on-site housing for pets. Such a program will allow more domestic violence victims to leave abusive situations without leaving their pets behind, according to AHA.

A 1997 study reported that up to 85 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters said their abusive partner had threatened, injured or killed the family pet. A 2007 study indicated that up to 48 percent of women had delayed leaving or remained in abusive situations because of concerns for the family pet. AHA hopes to change this with the PAWS program.

The program is the brainchild of Allie Phillips, AHA director of public policy. As an assistant prosecutor, Phillips often saw firsthand the fear domestic violence victims had for their cats and dogs.

“One frequent concern I heard was, ‘If I testify or I do not go back to him, he will kill my pet,’” Phillips said, adding that she learned even more about these concerns while providing national training on the link between animal abuse and other forms of violence. Recognizing that family violence shelters needed guidance about housing pets on-site, she decided to take action. “This has been my passion for years,” Phillips said, “I’m proud that American Humane supported my vision.”

To help shelters implement the PAWS program, AHA offers a program manual that outlines step-by-step instructions. For more information about PAWS or the American Humane Association, visit the AHA’s website.

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Reader Comments

Cheryl    Conway, MO

2/18/2008 9:32:02 PM

It would be so great if domestic violence shelters took pets. I don't understand why they can't. I have been in a couple and a family has one room to themselves, and the pets could stay in that room with them. It is scary to want to leave and not have a place or person to take your beloved pet.

Janice    Prescott, AZ

2/18/2008 4:13:47 AM

I think it is wonderful! This consequence of a woman leaving an abusive situation had not occurred to me, and probably not to many others.

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