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Letter to Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Chairman Shelby, and Vice Chairman Leahy - Wyden, Merkley Join Bipartisan Push to Increase Funding to Protect Survivors of Domestic Violence & Pets in Next COVID-19 Relief Bill


Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Chairman Shelby, and Vice Chairman Leahy:

We write today to urge you to provide additional funding to support shelter and transitional
housing services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault as you work to develop a
CARES 2.0 package. We request this funding include an additional $4 million for the Department
of Justice Emergency and Transitional Pet Shelter and Housing Assistance (ETPSHA) grant
program authorized by the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act.

Reports of domestic violence have risen dramatically across the country in recent weeks as stayat-home orders subject many victims of family abuse to prolonged periods of isolation with their
abuser. The presence of new stressors, such as COVID-19-related job losses, have increased the
likelihood of domestic violence incidents. Research has also shown that the challenge of leaving
an abusive relationship is compounded by the presence of a family pet. Abusers frequently threaten
or harm pets as a means to exert power and control. Approximately 50 percent of domestic violence
survivors cite the fear of leaving their pets behind with their abuser as a reason for why they remain
in abusive situations. Yet despite the prevalence of this problem, most shelters in the United States
do not admit companion animals, and this lack of capacity often forces victims to remain in abusive
situations out of fear of leaving their companion animals behind.

Recognizing the importance of addressing this problem, Congress incorporated the PAWS Act
into the 2018 Farm Bill, creating a grant program to help domestic violence shelters accommodate
survivors with pets. While the Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime is currently
working to get FY20 funding into the hands of shelters, that initial allocation did not anticipate the
substantial increase in demand for these services. We in turn urge no less than $4 million in
additional investment for these ETPSHA grants as we look to the next phase in our efforts to
support vulnerable populations while addressing and recovering from this crisis.

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to working with you to provide for the
immediate, increased needs of domestic violence survivors in CARES 2.0.