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Legislation Expanding Domestic Violence Crimes Signed Into Law


In late December, legislation broadening what is considered to be a domestic violence crime under the federal criminal code was signed into law in order to increase protections for victims of domestic violence and their pets. The “PAWS” Act not only makes adjustments to key definitions within the federal criminal code, but also establishes a grant program to provide funding to cover housing costs for domestic violence victims who are reportedly fleeing domestic violence situations with their pets.

In finalizing the law, legislators were persuaded by statistics indicating that at least 33 percent of domestic violence victims have reported delaying leaving a dangerous situation due to concerns over what would happen to their pets; perhaps in part due to the fact that only three percent of domestic violence shelters either accept victims’ pets or provide vouchers so that victims can stay in some form of housing that does. In addition, a reported 85 percent of domestic violence victims report threats of violence or violence being directed at their pets.  In addition to the trauma that domestic violence victims go through, many, before now, have also had to deal with the shame of surrendering their pets because there was no place to take them.

What the Paws Act Does

The PAWS Act specifically does the following:

  • Adjusts the definition of “stalking” within the federal criminal code to include behavior that leads a victim to hold a reasonable belief that “death or serious bodily injury” will be inflicted onto their pet;
  • Technically makes it a crime to threaten a pet in a domestic violence situation;
  • Imposes additional criminal penalties (such as prison time and/or fines) if someone crosses state lines with the intent of harming a pet covered in a protection order;
  • Makes anyone who commits domestic violence against a pet or violates a protection order responsible for covering any resulting veterinary care costs;
  • Establishes a $3 million grant program to be provided each year from 2017 to 2021 to help with costs of shelters that take in both domestic violence victims and their pets, as well as fund the construction of additional facilities to house domestic violence victims and their pets; and
  • Encourages all states to include pet protection language in protection orders (only 33 states currently do).

Domestic Violence Crimes & Charges during the Holidays

According to authorities, domestic violence crimes surge during the holidays and prosecuting attorneys are specifically seeking out those who have a history of domestic violence complaints and protection orders filed against them.

Contact Our North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you have any questions about what is covered under the law, or if you have been charged with a domestic violence or animal cruelty charge in the state of North Carolina, contact our experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorneys at the office of Hauter Law Firm, PC today.


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