The Virginia legislature is considering a bill (HB 1716) focused on protecting children, families and individuals who have been stalked, abused or sexually battered. The bill also includes references to protecting animals from individuals who commit the above crimes. For example, in the case of family abuse, a protective order can be issued by a court to prevent violence toward the person who files the petition for protection and other family or household members, and some animals. In the section on family abuse, provision number eight reads, “Prohibiting the respondent from damaging any item of personal property or harming a companion animal, as defined in 3.2-6500;” (Source: state.va.us)
The same provision is also listed under sections pertaining to stalking, and sexual battery. The language related to animals in the context of these two crimes is:
- Enjoining the respondent from damaging any item of personal property or harming a companion animal
- To abstain from damaging any item of personal property or harming a companion animal.(Source: state.va.us)
According to Virginia code a companion animal is, “…any domestic or feral dog, domestic or feral cat, nonhuman primate, guinea pig, hamster, rabbit not raised for human food or fiber, exotic or native animal, reptile, exotic or native bird, or any feral animal or any animal under the care, custody, or ownership of a person or any animal that is bought, sold, traded, or bartered by any person. Agricultural animals, game species, or any animals regulated under federal law as research animals shall not be considered companion animals for the purposes of this chapter.” (Source: state.va.us)
Why is such legislation necessary? According to a research study conducted in New Jersey for families that had experienced child abuse, it was reported for 88 percent of them there was also animal abuse. Studies done in other areas in the US have found the same relationship with varying degrees of animal abuse.
Tell Virginia to protect pets from domestic violence, by signing this Care2 petition.
Such scenarios can involve animals when they are targeted to cause emotional pain to the owner. They also might be involved simply by being present during domestic violence and trying to interfere.
The American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has published some reasons why abusers sometimes also focus on animals:
- To demonstrate power and control over the family
- To isolate the victim and children
- To enforce submission
- To perpetuate an environment of fear
- To prevent the victim from leaving or coerce her to return
- To punish for leaving or showing independence
(The American Human Society has a whole web page devoted to the topic of domestic violence and animal abuse.)
In 2006, similar protective legislation was passed in Maine.
Sign a petition to Virginia legislators to protect pets from domestic violence.