Restraining Orders Now Protect Pets from Abusers

A Massachusetts dog was the first in his state to receive an order of protection from his owner's abusive partner.
Animals are increasingly becoming the subjects of legislation granting them protection from domestic abusers. (Photo: James Whitesmith/Getty Images)
Dec 1, 2012· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

The state of Massachusetts recently showed the transformative power of law when applied thoughtfully and compassionately to real-life situations. New legislation was enacted allowing restraining orders created to protect abuse victims to include the protection of their pets as well.

This week “Panzer,” a 6-year-old Labrador mix, was the first to benefit from this new law. His female owner and her child were sent to live in a shelter after the state ruled she had been battered by her live-in partner. Panzer too was also reportedly abused, and in order to protect him, the dog was sent to a foster home until his owner can find permanent housing.

MORE: In NYC, Animal Abusers May Have to Register Like Sex Offenders

According to CBS Boston, Marshfield Police Chief Phil Tavares explained why domestic abuse laws that include animals are so crucial to public safety: “Animals are often used as a tool for emotional abuse…the abuser will use an animal to seek revenge on or try to control one of the victims.”

The news agency also reports that more than 70 percent of abused women confirm their attackers threatened or actually carried out violent threats against their pets. And 50 percent report they delayed leaving their homes out of fear for their animals.

The acknowledgement of law enforcement that animal and human abuse go hand in hand is a welcome change from just a few years ago when animal abuse was waived off as a peripheral concern, the domain of humane agencies, not police officers and judges.

According to Sgt. David Hunt who spoke to The New York Times, “With traditional law enforcement, the attitude has been that we have enough on our plate, let others worry about Fluffy and Muffy.” But Hunt reveals that research and experience prove the strong link between animal cruelty and other serious offenses like drug trafficking, child abuse, rape and homicide. And the punitive branches of our government are taking note; Hunt now travels the country teaching law-enforcement personnel about those connections and how to identify their warning signs.

But the concern with animal abuse isn't only that it's a red flag for other crimes, but that these animals are suffering. An abuser's predatory nature seeks out animals because they can be overpowered, they don't have a voice, and if properly restrained, they can't fight back. It's the worst form of abuse because its victim is truly powerless.

According to The Week, though Massachusetts is currently receiving a heightened amount of attention because of its animal protection law, 22 other states and Washington, D.C. already have such legislation on their books.

It’s an encouraging number, though the need for a nationwide mandate is evident. We are the only "voice" our pats have, and it's our responsibility to insist that they're kept healthy and safe.

What do you think is a fair punishment for people who abuse animals?
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