New bill aims to protect pets caught in domestic violence disputes

A new bill aims to protect pets caught in the center of a domestic violence dispute.

It's a sad reality that many pets face.

"We lost her in March 2015," said Stephanie Deeley.

Deeley stood next to Congresswoman Katherine Clarke Tuesday in celebration for her sister. After years of documented abuse, Kim Parker was found dead in her home. Her husband decorated retired Boston firefighter Richard Parker was sentenced to four to six years in prison for kidnapping and assaulting his wife in 2011 in a separate incident.

"She had two golden retrievers. Her husband threatened her; her husband was her abuser, and he threatened to harm her animals all the time," said Deeley.

Deeley, Clarke and other survivors and animal rights advocates gathered to celebrate the passage of the PAWS Act, expanding federal domestic violence protections to include protections for the pets of domestic violence victims. It's expected to be signed by President Trump as part of the federal Farm Bill.

"We can all agree having people safe at home is a goal that we can get behind," said Rep. Katherine Clarke (D-MA 5th District).

Research over the last two decades show up to 50 percent of domestic violence victims reported delaying their decision to leave out of concern for what would happen to their pets.

"You become isolated and that pet is your rock and it's very real that loved one is threatened by the abuser cause that is a tool. And you don't want to leave that loved one behind," said domestic abuse survivor Jenne Sindoni.

According to one study, as many as 25 percent of participants reported returning to an abusive relationship out of concern for their pets.

"It is so important. If there is any hindrance to being able to leave a situation like that, or if we can pass something that takes away that hindrance then that's a great step to be making," said Sindoni.

This was a long time coming. The PAWS Act was introduced back in 2014 and is expected to be signed into law before the start of the new year. It has bipartisan support and advocates believe its critical in the fight to end domestic violence.

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