A congresswoman from Massachusetts is celebrating the expected passage of a bill granting new protections to the victims of domestic violence and their pets.
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA5) introduced the PAWS Act, which would expand federal domestic violence protections to include the pets of domestic violence victims. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law Thursday.
Stephanie Deeley says when her late sister, Kim Boleza Parker, was being abused by her husband, it was her two golden retrievers, Bruschi and Brady, who stood by her.
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"In 2011, Kim's husband, her abuser, held her in her house against her will, threatening to kill her as he threw knives at her," Deeley said. "Kim's husband threatened to kill both of her dogs if she tried to get out of the house. And she would not leave without them."
Clark says Boleza Parker's experience is not unique.
"As many as 25 percent of domestic violence survivors have reported returning to an abusive partner out of concern for their pet," Clark said.
Clark explained how the new law would bring financial repercussions to attackers.
"If abuse does occur, the law requires the abusers pay for the medical expenses to care for the pet family member," she said.
In a room full of advocates and animals waiting to be adopted, the collective hope was to increase, significantly, the number of shelters that accommodate pets. Currently, there are 73 nationwide.
Belizo Parker was found dead on her front lawn in 2013. While the PAWS Act comes too late to help her, Deeley explained just how much her sister's dogs meant to her.
"Both Bruschi and Brady were lying there with her, protecting her from the cold and licking her face to try and wake her up," she said.