February 22, 2022
Senators urge inclusion of $3 million in fiscal year 2022 budget for PAWS Act grant program to support victims of domestic violence and their pets
U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) have sent a bipartisan letter to the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee, urging them to include $3 million in their proposed budget for the 2022 exercise to support victims of domestic violence and their pets. The Department of Justice’s Pet Shelter and Housing Emergency and Transition Grant Program (PAWS) – which was created through the Domestic Animals and Women’s Safety Act (PAWS) which Peters wrote and signed in 2018 – helps fund facilities that house survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence, as well as their pets.
“Abusers often threaten or inflict violence on pets in order to intimidate or exert control over their partners and prevent them from leaving,” write the lawmakers. “This vital grant program helps the federal government ensure that more domestic violence shelters are able to accommodate victims with pets or arrange for a third-party pet shelter. »
“On the contrary, the urgent need for program funding has increased during the pandemic, as victims of domestic violence have been subjected to long periods of isolation with their abuser; and stressors, such as COVID-19-related job losses and additional childcare burdens resulting from school and daycare closures, have increased the likelihood of domestic violence incidents,” they continued. “Thank you for your attention to this important issue, and we hope you will agree to provide $3 million in FY22 to help victims of domestic violence escape their abuse.”
Several studies have shown that domestic abusers often seek to manipulate or intimidate their victims by threatening or hurting their pets, but according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), only three percent of shelters for victims of domestic violence across the country accept pets. The ASPCA cited a Wisconsin study that found that 68% of domestic violence survivors said their abusers were also violent toward their animals. A similar study found that up to 25% of victims of domestic violence returned to an abusive partner out of concern for their pet. A separate 2007 study found that up to a third of domestic violence survivors said they delayed leaving an abuser for an average of two years out of concern for their pet’s safety.
Recent reports have also indicated that domestic violence has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic due to people being housed at home with abusive partners. Additionally, since the grant program was first funded in 2020, demand from shelters for PAWS funding has consistently exceeded available funds.
The letter led by Senator Peters was signed by Senator Van Hollen along with Senators Maggie Hassan (DN.H.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Cory Booker (DN. J.) , Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Catherine Cortez Mastro (D-Nev.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif. ), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Dick Durbin ( D- Ill.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Ben Ray Lujàn (DN.M.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Robert Menendez (DN.J. ), and Martin Heinrich (DN.M.).
The text of the letter is copied below and available here.
Dear Presidents Leahy and Baldwin, Vice President Shelby and Hoeven Ranking Member:
As you finalize appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2022, we respectfully urge you to adopt the House’s position of $3 million for the subsidy program authorized by Section 12502 of the Farm Bill of 2018 (PL 115 -334), the Protecting Animals with Shelter (PAWS) program. As you may recall, in FY21, Congress appropriated $2.5 million for this program, and we thank you for your continued support at the previously enacted level. For FY22, $3 million for PAWS funding was requested by a bipartisan group of 43 Senators and 204 Representatives seeking animal welfare provisions for FY22, in letters submitted to the agricultural credit sub-committees in the spring.
Section 12502 of the 2018 Farm Bill incorporated language from the PAWS Act (Section 322 of the 115th Congress) and authorized a new grant program to provide emergency and transitional housing options for victims of domestic violence with pets. Abusers often threaten or inflict violence on pets in order to intimidate or exert control over their partners and prevent them from leaving. Research has found that up to 84% of women entering domestic violence shelters said their partner had abused or killed the family pet. This vital grant program helps the federal government ensure that more domestic violence shelters are able to accommodate victims with pets or arrange for a third-party pet shelter.
It is important to note that the program is set up as a relay, with funds initially going to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but grants being administered by the Department of Justice (DOJ). As a result, the President’s FY22 budget request for the USDA did not include funding for this program, due to what we understand to be miscommunication between the two agencies. The DOJ has since clarified that it wants the program to continue and that additional funds are indeed needed for this to happen. Moreover, the demand for this program has consistently exceeded the funds available. In fiscal year 2020, Congress appropriated $2 million for the PAWS program; there were 40 grant applications that year and six grants were funded for a total of $2.2 million. In FY21, Congress appropriated $2.5 million for the PAWS program; there were 22 grant applications that year, and five grants were funded for a total of $2.42 million, leaving few funds to carry over to FY22.
On the contrary, the urgent need for program funding has increased during the pandemic, as victims of domestic violence have been subjected to long periods of isolation with their abuser; and stressors, such as COVID-19-related job losses and additional childcare burdens resulting from school and daycare closures, have increased the likelihood of domestic violence incidents.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue, and we hope you will agree to provide $3 million in FY22 to help survivors of domestic violence escape their abuse.