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Winter Storm Avery takes lives, puts the brakes on commutes across the Northeast. Also on our Friday rundown: A first-of-its-kind report calls for policies to ease transitions of young people living in foster care. And "got gratitude" this holiday season? It could benefit your health.

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PAWS Act Protects Pets, Human Victims of Domestic Violence

According to the ASPCA, a study in Wisconsin found 68 percent of domestic-violence survivors reported their abusers were also violent toward their animals. (Pixabay)
According to the ASPCA, a study in Wisconsin found 68 percent of domestic-violence survivors reported their abusers were also violent toward their animals. (Pixabay)
January 15, 2018

NORFOLK, Va. — Killing, harming or threatening to harm beloved pets are weapons used by domestic abusers to manipulate victims into silence, but new legislation by Virginia U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine would extend protections to survivors and their pets.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes "intimate partner violence" as sexual, physical or psychological harm by heterosexual or same-sex partners.

Rob Blizard, executive director of the Norfolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said he's heard of many situations where women would not leave their abusers to go to a women's shelter because they are concerned about leaving their pet behind.

Blizard believes the PAWS Act is needed to stop those who would use the comfort animals provide to harm others.

"One of the things it does is authorize a grant program to help women's shelters open spaces to accept pets,” Blizard said, "meaning that they could both get out of a bad situation."

According to Blizard, only 3 percent of domestic violence shelters in the U.S. accept pets. The legislation would expand existing federal domestic-violence protections to include threats or acts of violence against a pet.

The bill also requires the full amount of the victim's losses for purposes of restitution in domestic violence and stalking offenses to include any costs incurred for veterinary services relating to physical care for the victim's pet.

Blizard said there are multiple studies showing that victims have a lot of consideration for their pets. One study found that as many as 25 percent of survivors returned to an abusive partner out of concern for a pet.

"They will go after the pet, according to what I have read and heard,” Blizard explained. "It sort of implies, you know, 'If you don't do what I want, this is what I'm going to do to your dog or cat,’ with the message that 'I will also do this to you at some point if you're not doing what I want you to do.'"

Several agencies in Virginia would be aided by the PAWS Act by placing companion animals out of harm's way so that survivors can seek safety for themselves. You can find those agencies by visiting awionline.org.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA