In our blog we will try to provide you with general information regarding family law, as well as updates in important cases and statutes dealing with family law in New Hampshire. This is not to be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and small facts can make a difference.
Pets Are Now Protected By New Massachusetts Domestic Violence Laws
In the last 12 months, Massachusetts has passed a number of new legislation that is designed to protect the victims of domestic violence. In a legal move that is among the first of its kind in the country, pets are now being afforded the same protections as their human owners. The new law was signed into legislation by Governor Deval Patrick in the summer of 2012, but it wasn’t until November of 2012 until the law was first used in a court of law.
In the precedent setting case, a dog named Panzer, who is a Lab mix, became the very first dog to be included in a restraining order. The dog was included in the order against its owner’s abuser because the abuser had put the dog, the female owner, and an unnamed child in immediate danger.
The authors of this bill pushed for its creation because of a proven link between animal abuse and domestic violence – two incidences that seem to go hand in hand with one another. This is an emerging pattern that has been recognized by experts all over the country, and Massachusetts lawmakers have taken the first steps to stop it in its tracks. Many abusers frequently use pets to provide leverage in domestic abuse situations where they are trying to gain control.
They may use pets to coerce or frighten a victim into doing what they want. Many times, the victims of abuse are often afraid to leave their abusers because of fear of what the predators will do to their pets. In some studies, more than 70% of abused women have stated that their abusers threatened the well-being of their pets. In an interview, the owner of Panzer agreed with this sentiment, stating to WBZ-TV of Boston that:
"He's a good dog. He didn't deserve that… It has given me 100 percent piece of mind.”
In a separate interview with the CBS affiliate, the Phil Tavares, the chief of police for Marshfield stated:
“Animals are often used as a tool for emotional abuse. The batterer, the abuser will use an animal to seek revenge on or try to control one of the victims.”
In having this law enacted, Massachusetts police officers hope that future victims will feel empowered to leave their abusers and to provide their pets with a safe haven. Panzer was initially placed with a foster family in the Marshfield area, but he has since been reunited with his owner. In the Panzer case, the alleged abuser had a violent history of assault and battery.
Panzer’s owner has stated that she wanted to share her story on a public platform, so that her experiences could help others who have been in similar situations. It is her hope that these victims will gain the confidence needed to leave their undesirable circumstances.
This case is among the first of its kind in Massachusetts, and lawmakers hope that it will set an example for other states in the future.
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