This vote is encouraging and heartwarming news for domestic violence victims as well as family violence prevention and animal welfare advocates.
At the same time, the outcome was not surprising. That’s because last week members of the Committee heard convincing testimony in the form of victim stories and statistics on why Wisconsin needs legislation to protect the pets of domestic violence victims.
Those who testified included Megan Senatori, Co-Founder/President of Sheltering Animals of Abuse Victims, Shannon Barry, Exec. Director at Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, WI State Rep. Terese Berceau (a sponsor of companion bill AB 141), Tony Gibart, Public Policy Director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, domestic violence survivor and advocate Robbyn Bowman; Jeni Haddad, Domestic Violence Program Director for the Family Support Center in Chippewa Falls; Crystal Hester, MSW intern at NASW-Wisconsin; and Anne Reed, Executive Director of Wisconsin Humane Society.
Ms. Bowman’s testimony was especially compelling as she shared her story about the death of her beloved dog Lambeau at the hands of her now ex-husband. (More of her story can be seen on this link to Madison TV station WKOW's website.)
State Sen. Tim Carpenter expressed his appreciation towards those who spoke at the hearing in favor of the bill, as well as those groups who formally supported but did not testify, including, but not limited to State Rep. Andre Jacque - who introduced companion bill AB 141, WI Voters for Companion Animals, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Assn.
In a released statement, Sen. Carpenter said: “I’m grateful that so many people took the time to come testify about the need for this bill, and how it will help victims of abuse and their pets. The personal stories that victims shared with the committee were compelling and point to the need for giving a judge explicit authority in these matters. I was genuinely moved that one victim drove over 5 hours from Northern Wisconsin to be able to testify.”
No one at the hearing spoke in opposition to this bill.
As to what happens next, according to Sen. Carpenter’s office, the bill is now available for scheduling. It is up to the Senate Majority Leader Sen. Scott Fitzgerald to decide whether or when this bill will be brought up before the full senate for a vote.
One cannot help but be optimistic that this bill will be passed. Some of the conversation among committee members during the public hearing included their own statements about how much their pets mean to them and how they view them as family members. It’s a safe bet to think most legislators, like the general public, feel the same way.
We’ll keep you posted. Onwards and upwards!
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
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