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Push for pet-friendly shelters for domestic violence victims

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer walks with a

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer walks with a rescue dog named Deebo before calling on Congress to pass the Protect Pets and Women from Domestic Violence (PAWS) Act, which would give LI domestic violence victims and their pets greater access to safe sheltering options, as well as provide stronger legal protections to pets outside of The Safe Center in Bethpage, Friday, April 22, 2016. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined Long Island domestic violence counselors and animal protection officers Friday to call on Congress to approve funding for pet-friendly domestic violence shelters.

At a news conference in Bethpage, representatives of the Safe Center LI, the Long Island Domestic Violence Coalition, and the Nassau and Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shared stories of victims who stayed with partners who killed or severely beat their pets as an “example” of what would happen to the victims if they left.

Schumer pressed for adoption of the Pet and Women’s Safety Act. The act calls for $3 million in annual federal funding to increase the amount of pet-friendly domestic violence shelters available nationally.

“Right now, there’s a hole in the overall protections we offer victims,” Schumer said.

“That hole doesn’t get much attention but it’s really serious stuff,” he said. “Every day domestic violence victims, many of whom are also pet owners . . . have to make an awful choice between leaving an abusive relationship or staying at home to protect the safety of their pet.”

The federal measure, which Schumer said has bipartisan support in the House and Senate, would require abusers to pay for veterinary bills and other expenses for injured pets, and would make it a crime to make threats against a pet, Schumer said.

Sandy Oliva, executive director of the Safe Center LI, said one of the center’s clients opened her freezer to find that her abuser had killed her six puppies and stuffed them into plastic bags.

She recalled another client who told counselors her husband had placed a gun in their German shepherd’s mouth, and threatened to kill the dog in front of their daughter as a “lesson.”

“These things are really happening . . . it’s terrible stuff,” Oliva said. Women sometimes find it hard to find pet-friendly shelters and have lived in their cars with their pets, Oliva said.

New York currently has 20 pet-friendly domestic violence shelters, four of them on Long Island, Schumer said.


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