Pets and Domestic Violence

An Act Relative to Domestic Violence and Animals


Great news!  A Marshfield dog was the first to be protected with a restraining order under the new law; read more:

Language from S. 682 was included in S. 2192, which passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor on August 2, 2012. It became effective October 31, 2012.  Read the text of the new law here. Thank you Senator Clark for amending the bill in the Senate to include this provision.  

  Co-sponsors of S. 682:              

Rep. DiNatale
Rep. Ehrlich
Rep. Brownsberger
Rep. Benson
Rep. Coakley-Rivera
Rep. Fresolo
Rep. Andrews
Rep. Ashe
Rep. Atkins
Rep. Ayers
Rep. Balser

Rep. Brady
Rep. Canavan

Sen. Chang-Diaz
Sen. Donnelly
Rep. Dwyer
Rep. Dykema
Sen. Eldridge
Rep. Garballey
Rep. Gobi
Rep. Lewis
Rep. Harrington
Rep. Hecht
Rep. Hogan
Rep. Fox
Rep. Ferrante
Rep. Kafka
Rep. Khan

Sen. Montigny
Rep. Pignatelli
Rep. Reinstein
Rep. Smith
Rep. O’Day
Rep. Peisch
Rep. Scibak
Rep. Sciortino
Rep. Smizik
Rep. Story
Rep. D. Sullivan
Rep. Toomey
Rep. Walz
Rep. Wolf

This bill enables courts to order the protection of an animal through existing specific statutes that authorize restraining orders or orders to vacate or stay away.

What This Bill Would Do:
The bill would provide protection for both human and animal victims of domestic violence. The link between animal cruelty and human violence is well documented in both study statistics and stories of abuse. Like children, pets are often used as pawns in domestic violence. Batterers abuse animals for a variety of reasons - to demonstrate power and control, to retaliate for acts of independence, to keep a victim silent and to coerce a victim to return or stay in an abusive relationship.

Fear for the welfare of a household pet often prevents battered women from escaping abusive relationships. One study found that up to 48% of battered women will not leave, or will return to a violent relationship due to fear of what might happen to the animal if left behind. (Ascione, F.R. (2007) Emerging research on animal abuse as a risk factor for intimate partner violence. In K. Kendall-Tackett & S. Giacomoni, eds.: Intimate Partner Violence. Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute.)

In addition to the MSPCA, supporters include many domestic violence organizations:

Link Up Education Network
Human/Animal Violence Education Network
REACH Beyond Domestic Violence
Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence
Dove, Inc.
Renewal House
Our Sister's Place, Fall River
YWCA of Western Massachusetts
American Humane Association
The Humane Society of the United States

Including Massachusetts, there are twenty-three states (and the District of Columbia) have laws to include pets in domestic violence orders, including: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia.

Thank you to Rep. Cory Atkins, who filed this as a non-monetary budget amendment (#753) with the language of this bill. Read the WickedLocal article or the Gloucester Times editorial. While it did not make it into the budget, we appreciate the additional awareness rasied due to her efforts.

Sponsor:  Senator Clark

-- Find out who your legislators are.
-- Find out more about legislators.
-- Read an letter in the Ipswich Chronicle
-- Read more about this issue from The Humane Society of the United States' First Strike Campaign (.pdf)
-- Read an article about this issue in O, the Oprah Magazine
-- Sign up here to receive news and alerts on legislation
-- Visit the Animal Legal and Historical Center for state summaries of this type of law.