State Senator Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) has introduced a bill – SB 97- that would allow domestic violence victims to keep their pets with them when filing for restraining orders. In a show of bi-partisan support, Rep. Jacque (R-DePere) filed a companion assembly bill, AB 141.
This is heartening news for those victims who have been forced to leave their pets behind when fleeing violent home environments. This bill will also be welcomed by professionals who work in the fields of animal care and welfare and family violence prevention. Many have heard accounts or witnessed first hand the cruelty inflicted on pets left alone in homes with abusers. Sometimes the pets are killed. It’s well-known that perpetrators often target beloved pets of victims in an effort to control or punish them.
When asked what his personal motivation was in introducing SB 97, Sen. Carpenter responded:
“Animals play an important part in our lives and it is our responsibility to make sure our treatment of them is humane. In researching legislation passed by other states I found that Wisconsin was not one of the 28 other states that allow pets to be placed on court orders protecting abuse victims. Our pets can be much loved members of our family, and the thought of them being used to control someone in an abusive situation is abhorrent. I hope that we will be able to pass SB 97 quickly this session."
Phil Arkow is the coordinator of The National Link Coalition, the National Resource Center on The Link between Animal Abuse and Human Violence. A nationally renowned speaker and instructor, he also tracks legislation in this arena. Arkow offered this response to the news of SB 97 and HB 141:
“The National Link Coalition applauds the 23 Wisconsin legislators who have already signed on to sponsor these significant bills, which would join Wisconsin to the 28 other states that have already enacted similar laws to protect all vulnerable members of families experiencing domestic violence. We are especially impressed with one provision of these bills that has not appeared elsewhere: all 28 states have provisions that enjoin the respondent from harming the animals, but the Wisconsin bills are unique in also granting the petitioner legal access to return home to retrieve her pets.”
And there’s even more good news. Action is taking place on a federal level as well. A bi-partisan bill, HR 1258, introduced by Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-MA-5) criminalizes the intentional targeting of a domestic partner’s pet with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate.
For a complete summary of HR 1258, also known as the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, go to: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1258
Aesop is credited with saying, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Now’s the time for a small act of kindness on behalf of domestic violence victims and their pets. Please contact your state legislators and urge them to pass SB 97 and AB 141. And, while you’re at it, please ask your representatives in Washington to support the PAWS Act.
To find your state legislators click on this link and enter your address in the top right corner.
To find your federal legislators click on this link and enter your zip code.
Denice Ryan Martin, a volunteer with Wisconsin Voters for Companion Animals, is a freelance writer, licensed social worker and animal welfare advocate. She first wrote about this topic in May 2013. http://www.wivotersforcompanionanimals.com/blog/leave-no-pet-behind-why-wisconsin-needs-a-law-to-protectpetsfrom-domestic-violence