In 2010 a number of states considered bills to authorize pet protection orders.
For the second time, an Ohio bill was introduced to make modest improvements in animal cruelty penalties and establish the authority of judges to issue orders of protection for pets in cases of domestic violence.
In 2010 the Ohio House of Representatives approved the bill, H.B. 55. Prior to the vote, the provisions of H.B. 79 were added to H.B. 55, and the amended H.B. 55 passed! (House Journal, p. 2730-2732) H.B. 79 repeals the provision of Ohio law that defines vicious dogs to include dogs commonly known as pit bulls.
The vote was 93-3.
Ohio H.B. 55 would have allowed a court to enter an order of protection in favor of any companion animal in the residence of the victim of domestic violence.
This means a court can order an abuser to stay away from the companion animal or impose other conditions to protect the pet’s health and safety. An abuser could be arrested for contempt should he or she violate the order. Of course, the abuser could be arrested for contempt as well as animal cruelty should he or she harm the companion animal. Both pets and people will be safer if judges can issue orders of protection for animals and law enforcement will have the tools they need to help control domestic violence situations.
This is an example of the well-documented link between animal cruelty and domestic or other violence to humans. Indeed, the Ohio bill, H.B. 55, would also have required a mental health evaluation for any child found guilty of companion animal cruelty and, if appropriate, any treatment or counseling. The child or his or her parents could be ordered to pay for the evaluation and any treatment or counseling ordered.
The Ohio bill would have required mental health, therapy and other medical professional and social work regulatory boards to offer courses on counseling individuals who abuse companion animals.
It is important to stop animal cruelty at the least, to stop potential violence to family members and others.
The bill otherwise have increased the penalty for a violation of the prohibition against committing cruelty to animals, including farm animals, for a second or subsequent violation from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a misdemeanor of the first degree.
The bill would also have required a court to impose a term of basic probation supervision or a term of intensive probation supervision on an offender who violates one of the prohibitions against committing cruelty to a companion animal (knowingly torturing, tormenting, needlessly mutilating or maiming, cruelly beating, poisoning, needlessly killing, or committing an act of cruelty against a companion animal) more than once.
Other State Laws on Pet Protection Orders
A law allowing judges to issues orders of protection for pets was first passed in Maine in 2006, and since then a number of states including Vermont, New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut, Washington, and Hawaii have passed similar laws.
It is well-established in domestic violence situations, the abuser will many times threaten or abuse animals to control the victim spouse or children. Many times abused spouses are too afraid to leave a situation of domestic violence because they fear harm will come to their animals they must leave behind.
In one study 71% of women in a battered women’s shelter reported their abuser either abused a household pet or threatened to abuse a pet. (Ascione, 1998)
In another study 88% of child abusers also abused the animals in the home. (Ascione)
In a study by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, Public Health Department, the Johns Hopkins University from 1994 to 2000 in eleven US metropolitan cities, pet abuse was one of the four significant predictors for determining who was at highest risk for becoming a batterer. Many abused spouses delay leaving out of fear for their pets’ safety and because they have nowhere to take them.
Louisiana’s 2008 law, Senate Bill 264, is typical of these laws that allow judges to protect animals in domestic violence situations. Under that law the judge may enter a temporary restraining order giving sole custody and care of an animal to the victim or a third party and also direct the abuser to "refrain from harassing, interfering with, abusing or injuring any pet".
In a twist on a pet protection order, Alaska made it a crime in 2009 in most instances to "knowingly kill" or "injure" an animal "with the intent to intimidate, threaten, or terrorize another person". Click here for more on Alaska’s new law.
In the 2010 legislative session, a number of bills allowing pet protection orders were introduced. Indeed Colorado‘s bill, S.B. 80, and West Virginia’s, S.B. 490, passed. The Colorado law is typical and would allow a judge to enter an order "restraining [an abuser] from threatening, molesting, injuring, killing, taking, transferring, encumbering, concealing, or disposing of an animal owned, possessed, leased, kept or held by" anyone else including a minor child of the abuser or an elderly or at risk adult. The order can also specify arrangements for possession and care of the animal.
Bills that failed in 2010 include:
Arizona, S.B. 1085 which also passed the Senate but not the House.
Wisconsin, A.B. 747, passed the Assembly but not the state senate.
South Carolina, H.B. 3117 which did not get out of Committee.Other 2010 bills authorizing pet protection orders:
Virginia, H.B. 285, was held over until 2011.
New Jersey A. 1633 remains in the Judiciary Committee. Find Judiciary Committee members here (just click on their names for contact info) and your own New Jersey legislators here and write (letters or faxes are best) or call and urge them to pass this bill, A. 1633.