Escaping an Abusive Household with Your Pets

Escaping an Abusive Household with Your Pets

by Amy Robinson
Dog expert for Sniff & Barkens

Ever wonder why battered women will often stay in an abusive household? These women know something the rest of us don’t: if they go, something terrible can happen to their beloved pet. Abusers use pets as pawns to dominate and intimidate the victim. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop with mere threats.  More than 1 million pets are severely abused or killed each year in domestic violence cases. Now Congress is set to do something about that so that abused women can get away and heal with their beloved pets. The reintroduced PAWS Act (Pets and Women Safety act) would offer grants to women and family domestic violence shelters that accept pets and expands penalties for abusers to include abuse toward pets in the home.  Currently, only three percent of domestic violence shelters accept pets.

One corporation is not waiting for the government to make positive change. Bayer, long acknowledged as a leader in the animal health field, has supplied grants to various shelters around the country that take in victims of abuse along with their pets. Bayer’s Paws: Share the Story campaign offers sobering statistics to understand the scope of the problem, but looks to better days ahead with the help of pet owners who are asked to share their video and send an e-letter to their U.S. Congressional representative in support of the PAWS Act.

Bayer’s push to keep pets and domestic violence victims sheltered together started with the Rose Brooks Center five years ago, when Bayer granted $50,000 to help open Paws Place, a pet shelter co-located on Rose Brooks’ campus. “Bayer has funded several studies through HABRI (Human-animal Bond Research Institute) that show the myriad health benefits that pets provide beyond just increased exercise for those walking dogs. Pets help relieve stress, lower blood pressure and make a person feel needed and loved; all things that victims of domestic violence need”, says Lauren Dorsch, Senior Manager of Communications for Bayer Animal Health, who hosted a media luncheon along with Joyce Lee, President of Bayer Animal Health North America at Global Pet Expo in Orlando to raise awareness for the PAWS Act and for Bayer’s Paws: Share the Story campaign.

Bayer has also provided grants to both Noah’s Animal House, located in Las Vegas, Nevada and the Urban Resource Institute , located in New York City. “We wanted to identity those gold-standard places that were allowing pets and abuse victims to be co-located and help them improve their facilities. The locations of the Rose Brooks Center in Kansas City, Noah’s Animal House in Las Vegas and the Urban Resource Institute in New York are within large centers of population to serve the most people,” notes Dorsch.

Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families and costs the U.S. economy $8.3 billion per year through a combination of medical costs and lost productivity, according to the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence. “Sadly, one in four women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives,” said Representative Katherine Clark, who reintroduced the act with her colleague Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and 176 co-sponsors. “The idea of leaving a beloved pet behind in a dangerous situation is unthinkable. By ensuring that people experiencing domestic abuse don’t have to make the decision between finding a safe place for themselves or staying behind to protect their pet, we can empower survivors to seek help.”