Another effort is underway in Ohio to pass a law that will allow judges to issue civil or criminal orders of protection for companion animals at risk in situations of domestic violence. The bills, H.B. 243, introduced by state Reps. Marilyn Slaby (Dist. 38) and Michael Stinziano (Dist. 18), and S.B. 177, introduced by state Sen. Michael Skindel (Dist. 23),follow on earlier legislative efforts to protect companion animals that may be victimized by domestic violence.
The House of Representatives version, H.B. 243, also requires a minor adjudicated as delinquent for cruelty to a companion animal, to undergo a psychological evaluation and, if recommended, counseling. Any adult felony offender not already in counseling must be sentenced to a period of probation supervision or intensive probation supervision.
A law allowing judges to issues orders of protection for pets was first passed in Maine in 2006, 19-A M.R.S. Sec. 4007; and since then a number of states Vermont, 15 V.S.A. Sec. 1103; New York, NYS CLS Dom Rel Sec. 240; Family Ct. Act Sec. 352.3, 446, 551, 759, 1056; California, Cal Fam Code Sec. 6320, Illinois, 750 ILCS 60/214; Connecticut, Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-15; Washington, RCW 26.50.060; Louisiana, S.B. 264 (2008), Hawaii, H.R.S. Sec. 586-4; Arizona, A.R.S. Sec. 13-3602; Colorado, C.R.S. 18-6-803.5; West Virginia, S.B. 490 (2010), Washington, D.C., D.C. Code Sec. 16-1005, and Maryland, S.B. 747, 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.
In Ohio Lesley Ashworth, a Columbus City prosecutor noticed during her 27 years of working on domestic violence cases, that abused spouses often returned to the abusive situation because the abusive spouse threatened or harmed family pets. Her study of Franklin County, Ohio, revealed 17% of domestic violence victims reported in 2004 they could not leave the abusive home because no help or shelter was available for their pets.
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 Illinois, 510 ILCS 70/16.3 ab abuser may be liable to the abused spouse for acts of aggravated cruelty or torture or for injuries or damages incurred as a result of harming an animal, including veterinary expenses and any other costs incurred in rectifying the effects of the cruelty, emotional distress and even punitive damages limited to 25,000 per act of cruelty. An injunctive order can be obtained to protect the animal from further acts of abuse, neglect or harassment.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you live in Ohio, find your state legislators here. Write (letters or faxes are best) or call and urge them to support legislation to allow judges to issue orders of protection for companion animals, H.B. 243/S.B. 177. Also, the House bill, H.B. 243 is pending before the state House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. Find committee members here, and write or call and urge them to pass this important legislation for animals. If a member is also your state representative, be sure to let him or her know you are a constituent.