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Pets in Orders for Protection

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Pets in orders for protection- Passed this year!

The pets in orders for protection bill, SF 838/ HF 1396 was rolled into a domestic violence omnibus bill, SF 2437, which passed the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Pawlenty on May 10, 2010. In domestic violence situations, abusing pets is a way to control, intimidate and hurt other members of the family. Victims are often afraid to leave abusive situations because of concern for their pets or other animals. This law is a wonderful step forward for human and animal victims of domestic violence.

Like the men, women, and children who would not leave their pets behind in Hurricane Katrina, many survivors of domestic abuse will not seek safety for themselves if it means leaving their pets in danger.

You can help victims of domestic violence by calling your representatives and telling them you support S.F. 838 and H.F. 1396, the bill that would include pets in orders for protection. Please tell your family, friends, and co-workers about the bill so that they can call their representatives and urge them to support it too. Read the Pets in Orders for Protection bill, SF 838, here.

To find your Minnesota state senator and state representative, please click here.

In domestic violence situations, abusing pets is a way to control, intimidate and hurt other members of the family. Victims are often afraid to leave abusive situations because of concern for their pets or other animals.

Including pets in orders for protection will (under S.F. 838 and H.F. 1396):

  • Give domestic violence victims a legal mechanism to keep the batterer away from their pets.
  • Prompt judges to include pets in domestic violence protection orders.

Every day in counties across Minnesota, animals become victims of domestic abuse. In domestic violence situations, abusing pets is a damaging and terrifying way for a batterer to control, intimidate, and hurt other members of the family. In a number of states, the definition of domestic violence includes abuse of companion animals or damage, theft, or destruction of property. In a number of states, the law specifically tells courts they may grant custody of an animal to a victim and order the abuser not to harm the animal. Unfortunately, Minnesota’s law does neither.

The good news is a bill is working its way through the Minnesota legislature right now to change that.

Why Do We Need to Amend Minnesota’s Domestic Abuse Act?

Minnesota’s Domestic Abuse Act allows judges to issue an order called an “order for protection.” An order for protection is a legally enforceable order from which victims of domestic violence may work to rebuild their lives. In the order for protection, a judge may order up to fifteen different types of protection for a victim of domestic violence. Yet among these fifteen protections, none specifically allow a judge to order the care and custody of a family pet. None even specifically allow a judge to order the abuser to stop hurting the family pet.

Senate File 838 (S.F. 838) and companion House File 1396 (H.F. 1396) would amend Minnesota’s Domestic Abuse Act by adding language that would allow the court in an emergency or non-emergency order for protection to “direct the care, possession, or control of a pet or companion animal owned, possessed, or kept” by a member of the family or order the abusing party to have “no contact with the pet or companion animal.” Including pets in orders for protection will 1) give domestic violence victims a legal mechanism to keep the batterer away from their pets and 2) prompt judges to include pets in domestic violence protection orders. It will support a survivor’s journey to safety.

This bill adds the following language to 518B.01, Subdivisions 6 and 7:

Order for Protection (requiring notice and a hearing):

(a) Upon notice and hearing, the court may provide relief as follows:

(14) direct the care, possession, or control of a pet or companion animal owned, possessed, or kept by the petitioner or respondent or a child of the petitioner or respondent, or order the respondent to have no contact with the pet or companion animal.

Ex Parte Order (granting relief immediately without a hearing):

(a) Where an application under this section alleges an immediate and present danger of domestic abuse, the court may grant an ex parte order for protection and granting relief as the court deems proper, including an order:

(6) directing the care, possession, or control of a pet or companion animal owned, possessed, or kept by a party or a child of a party, or ordering the abusing party to have no contact with the pet or companion animal.

Similar language has been enacted in 10 states already, and is being considered in 12 others.

Why the State Budget Deficit Is Not a Barrier to Passing this Bill

When asked why legislators should pass this bill, at a time when the state is facing an almost $5 billion dollar budget shortfall, there are two reasons:

First, including pets in orders for protection will not strain state court resources because judges already consider numerous requests for relief when issuing orders for protection. In emergency situations, these requests may include consideration of whether to exclude the abusing party from the home or the victim’s place of employment and whether to order the continuation of insurance coverage. In non-emergency situations, these requests may include consideration of all the requests for relief available in emergency situations in addition to requests related to child custody, parenting time, support, restitution, use and possession of property, and treatment or counseling for the abusing party.

Second, including pets in orders for protection does not mandate that the government provide housing for pets that cannot be taken to domestic violence shelters. When an order for protection excludes an abuser from the home, the pet stays in the home with the family. When a victim must enter a domestic violence shelter, pets covered in the order for protection can stay with family or with friends. Pets can also stay with a foster family in one of a growing number of animal rescue organizations dedicated to helping pets of domestic violence victims.

Join Us In Support

Amending Minnesota’s Domestic Abuse Act to include pets in orders for protection is considered meaningful and necessary by victim advocates, animal advocates, veterinarians, social workers, judges, lawyers, and public safety officers. Including pets in orders for protection will spare animals from cruelty. It will spare their caretakers from anguish. And it will protect survivors of domestic violence in Minnesota by protecting the animals they love and cannot imagine living their lives without.

You can help victims of domestic violence by calling your representatives and telling them you support S.F. 838 and H.F. 1396, the bill that would include pets in orders for protection. Please call today!

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