No person should ever be forced to stay in an abusive relationship out of fear that her abuser will harm or kill her pet. Unfortunately, as many as 48% of domestic violence victims delay leaving abusive relationships, or never leave their abusers, in order to keep their pets safe.
Last year, Robbyn Bowman of Wisconsin testified in favor of legislation to include pets in restraining order protections. While going through a divorce that included physical abuse, Robbyn was granted a restraining order to protect herself and her daughter from her now ex-husband. She was not able to secure protection for her two dogs, Lambeau and Hallie. Shortly after the divorce, Robbyn’s batterer displayed Lambeau’s dead body in front of her home. Robbyn commented, "If we had been able to get a restraining order that included Lambeau, she probably would still be alive.”
Similar cases are occurring throughout the country. According to the American Humane Society, 71% of domestic violence victims who own pets reported that their abusers had threatened, injured, or killed family pets in order to intimidate or psychologically torture them. A Huffington Post article about domestic violence describes various ways that batterers have used beloved pets to control their human victims – for example, placing a cat in the microwave and threatening to cook the animal if a woman did not follow her abuser’s orders.
To empower abused individuals to take back their lives – and to provide safety for innocent animals - 29 U.S. states have now passed legislation to include pets in restraining order protections. Such statutes give judges the authority to order abusers not to remove, hide, mistreat, or dispose of family pets. These laws also allow victims of domestic violence or their advocates to retrieve pets from potentially dangerous situations.