PAWS Program to House Pets at Domestic Violence Shelters

The initiative will help shelters establish pet-friendly quarters so domestic violence victims don't have to leave their animals behind.

Posted: February 15 2008 2 a.m. EDT

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PAWS Program to House Pets at Domestic Violence Shelters
A new program will help promote on-site housing for cats and other pets at domestic violence shelters.
The American Humane Association (AHA) has created a program to promote on-site pet housing at women’s shelters in hopes of helping domestic violence victims who are reluctant to leave their partners because they fear for the safety of their pets.

AHA’s Director of Public Policy, Allie Phillips, created the Pets and Women’s Shelters (PAWS) program, and has witnessed the dilemma faced by victims who stay with abusers because they are fearful of what will happen to their pets if they leave.

“In the mid-1990s, as an assistant prosecutor, my misdemeanor criminal trial docket included many domestic violence cases,” Phillips explained. “Most of those cases never proceeded to trial or resulted in guilty pleas because the victims often failed to appear in court due to fear of retaliation by their batterers. One frequent concern I heard was ‘if I testify or I do not go back with him, he will kill my pet.’”

A 1997 study found that between 71 and 85 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that a partner had threatened, injured or killed the family pet. Studies also indicate that 18 to 48 percent of women reported that they were concerned about their pets’ safety and stayed in abusive homes or delayed leaving because they did not want to leave their pets behind, according to the AHA.

The PAWS program provides a step-by-step manual for shelters to assess their needs and provides instructions for shelters on how to implement a pet-friendly policy, as the majority of shelters currently don’t allow pets.

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Reader Comments

Christi    Freeville, NY

5/2/2011 2:50:53 AM

I am here to comment that I have spent the past 4 years staying in a VERY abusive relationship specifically due to the fact I had/have no where safe to go that would/will allow me to take my dog with me if I left. I am permamently disabled and will never leave her behind!

She is 7 years old. If I had a 7 year old "human child" would I be expected to leave her behind if I needed a safe place to go due to domestic violence? More than likely not.

My Black Lab IS my child too!!! She is a live being who needs me as much as I need her. To forbid me to take her with me forces me into further & continual abuse.

I'd rather die or literally live in the street than to leave her behind. She has been the only one who has stood by my side, let me cry on her shoulder, and provided unconditional love when I need it the most.

B    Quakertown, PA

5/14/2009 4:11:15 PM

I don't know what to say other than I believe that Paws program is very much needed. Zootoo has published several news articles in the past few months where the pets were injured or killed during domestic disputes.
It isn't fair to the pets to leave them in those surroundings the same as it isn't fair to the kids, or the abused spouse/partner. Pets have feelings too.
It is far past time to bring the beloved pets in for shelter too. Although too late for some, maybe not too late for others. Now is the time for the others though and of course, and unfortunately, there will be others.

Lillian    Eugene, OR

2/15/2008 11:42:31 PM

WOW!!! This is so purr*fect and helpful for not just the humans but for the pets, too!!! IT'S ABOUT TIME THE PETS GET HELP, TOO!!!

moni    Boise, ID

2/15/2008 10:29:17 PM

What a great program. I wonder which cities it is available in.

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