This is (finally!) fantastic news for animals in abusive homes, and for the people who won’t leave them behind:

Massachusetts Dog is First in the State to be Protected under Domestic Violence Restraining Order

A six-year-old Labrador mix named Panzer is being kept in an unidentified location to protect him from a former abusive owner.  He is the first dog in Massachusetts to be recognized under a restraining order for domestic violence.

In August, Governor Deval Patrick signed a large bill called “An Act Further Regulating Animal Control.”  A smaller section of the law stipulates that possession of an animal may be awarded to a victim to “prohibit the accused from abusing, threatening or taking a pet.”  Previously, a judge could only mandate that the accused stay away from the victim and their child(ren).

Research has indicated that over 70 percent of abused women say their abusers have threatened to harm or kill their pets.  Nearly 50 percent of victims put off leaving abusive and dangerous situations for fear of what might happen to pets that get left behind.

“Leaving a pet behind is not an option,” Holmquist said.  “It’s about animals and their safety and removing the barrier so people can feel the pet is protected in a situation.”

Panzer is currently staying in a foster home while his mother and her young son stay at an out-of-state domestic violence shelter.

“It is hoped that [the judge’s] order for the inclusion of Panzer in [this] Restraining Order has set a precedent and that moving forward we will see a lot more of these Abuse Protection Orders,” said Marshfield Animal Control Officer Demi Goldman.

Hopefully this law will gain favor and be passed in other states.  Perhaps then domestic violence shelters might also open their hearts a little more to allow animals to stay with and be just as well-protected as their owners who were brave enough to leave and seek help.

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2 responses to “This is (finally!) fantastic news for animals in abusive homes, and for the people who won’t leave them behind:

  1. Hallelujah. It’s horrible that any animal has to be a “test balloon,” but I’m so, so glad this is working.

  2. Yes.

    And just as is true for women, the restraining order is a piece of paper which may or may not intimidate the abuser out of further abuse. But it enables greater prosecution, and it puts more pressure on domestic violence shelters to develop strategies for also helping the animals women will not leave behind (and for good reason). Even if it’s just collaboration with animal shelters and foster networks.

    This bill has been languishing for a long time, for absolutely no reason. I am so glad it finally moved forward this year. And I love Duval Patrick more by the day.

    This story about a shelter doing the right thing is heartening, too.

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