House Bill 1499 would add pets to restraining orders in order to protect them from becoming victims of domestic violence. Representative Peter Koutoujian (D) filed the bill on January 13, 2009. The deadline for this bill is May 7, 2010. Massachusetts is following 11 other states–including Illinois, New York, and Colorado–who already have similar laws in place.
Animal and domestic violence advocates say this bill would protect animals and families in many capacities. It would also protect those caring for pets whose guardians are in a safe haven.
Often times a victim will not leave an abusive home because he or she refuses to leave the pets behind. And in some domestic disputes, pets are used to lure victims back into the home. Perpetrators will threaten to harm or kill the animal if the victims don’t return. A study by the MSPCA and Northwestern University revealed that “up to 48 percent of victims either will not leave or will return to a violent relationship because they fear for a pet’s safety.”
HB 1499 would extend protection to family pets as they often times become collateral damage in domestic abuse situations. “Abusers often take advantage of women’s and children’s attachments to pets by threatening to harm or kill the family pet to ensure the woman will not leave or that the child will not report the abuse,” according to an article on the subject by animal welfare activists Phil Arkow and Tracy Coppola.
Thomas Flanagan, an officer with the Animal Rescue League of Boston, told the Boston Herald, “[HB 1499] will make it a lot simpler to make a complete separation between the batterer and the victim. You’re not going to have that bartering chip where they can lure them back and have a horrible retaliation.”
Please help pass House bill 1499 by contacting the judiciary committee and voicing your support by clicking here. –Sarah Hyde