Magnarelli: Bill to Include Pets in Orders of Protection Signed by Governor

August 25, 2006

The legislation is the first of its kind in New York State, in that it allows family courts to include companion animals under the provisions of a court order of protection, (signed chap.253 of 2006). New York is only the third state in the nation to pass such a measure.

Increasing interest has been focused on the problem of domestic violence and its connection with animal abuse. Often abusers, in an effort to control and threaten their partners, harm or kill their pets. These attempts have the effect of depriving domestic violence victims of the only comfort and companionship in their lives and ratcheting up the fear of their abusers. This legislation includes in the court order of protection that a defendant refrain from intentionally injuring or killing, without justification a companion animal owned, possessed, leased, kept or held by the petitioner or a minor child residing in the household.

Domestic violence experts indicate that many men who abuse their spouses or girlfriends have threatened to harm, assault and even kill their animals as a form of abuse and control. Nationwide, law enforcement, social workers and animal protection organizations report an established connection between domestic abuse and animal cruelty. Maine and Vermont have already adopted measures to protect animals in domestic violence cases, and Illinois is considering similar legislation.

These violent individuals who abuse family members and direct their anger toward innocent pets must be stopped. Family pets and companion animals must be given full protection in cases of domestic violence. This legislation will put an end to these senseless acts of cruelty.

Pets are cherished members of the family for many New Yorkers. Since court orders provide protections for spouses, significant others and children in domestic violence cases, they should also protect those who cannot speak or stand up for themselves.