It looks like both Washington and Iowa are considering legislation that would include family pets under domestic violence protections. In Washington, the legislation would allow courts to issue restraining orders against abusers that include pets as well as the abused party; and in Iowa, the legislation would not only allow restraining orders to be issued, but would also allow a court to issue an order giving the abused party full custody of the pet(s) without a restraining order.
On the surface, for the uninitiated, this may seem a bit silly, or even trivializing of domestic violence. But indeed, it’s anything but. These pieces of legislation aren’t just about protecting animals — who, I would argue, do indeed deserve our protection. They’re primarily about protecting the abused human.
How? Because it’s not at all uncommon for abusers to used beloved family pets to get to their victims. They may threaten the safety or life of the pet in order to prevent the abused person from leaving, and may actually do harm to the pet, including torturing and killing it in order to do emotional damage to the human victim.
Any of us who has a pet who they love dearly can easily relate to this. If someone threatened my cat, who I love more than almost anything? Yeah, that’d probably work. And it actually does work in a lot of cases. People, especially women, have been murdered because they couldn’t stand the thought of harm being done to their animals.
So this legislation is good news. It has the potential to save both animal and human lives. And if you live in either state? You should be contacting your legislators to let them know that you support it.