Should Domestic Violence Laws Include Protection For Pets, Too?

Over the past few years, the number of calls that I receive as a Massachusetts domestic restraining order attorney, on the subject of Massachusetts domestic violence arrest and charges, has increased substantially.  A great reason for this spike has to do with new legislation that was passed a few years ago, which expanded the scope and legal severity of these crimes.  That reform legislation was passed in large part due to tragedies involving allegedly light treatment that judges and prosecutors had given to a few cases involving domestic violence, in which persons arrested for domestic violence were released from custody, only to inflict even more injuries, and even death, upon the victims.  Those cases, one of which involved the son of Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy, hit the media, and once that happened, new, tougher legislation on this subject was bound to follow.

However, the governor of our neighboring state of Rhode Island just signed legislation that would include household pets in domestic violence protection orders (in Massachusetts, such orders are alternatively called “Abuse Prevention Orders”, “Restraining Orders”, or “209A Orders”.)  Before you scratch your head and think that such legislation might be a little extreme, the Rhode Island legislature had their reasons.  That legislative rationale says that – statistically speaking – a person who abuses others physically is very likely to also abuse pets and small animals, also.  Thus, the new legislation in Rhode Island will allow judges to order that any person against whom a domestic violence protection order is issued, is also ordered to not abuse any family or domestic pets.  The legislative and judicial reasoning is sound, because there is a strong mathematical and social correlation between domestic abuse and animal abuse.  The legislation is not so much intended to carve out a new class of protected victims (pets), as to provide one more vector of behavior to provide protection against.  Imagine a situation where an abuse prevention order did not cover household pets, and someone against whom such an order was issued, intentionally and severely kicked and injured or killed the family dog or cat – and then claimed that he/she “did not violate any order”.  Would you not think that such a person is likely to also inflict violence against the person(s) that the order was issued to protect?  It makes sense.  And by the way, Rhode Island is following in the legal footsteps of  Massachusetts and Connecticut, whose domestic violence laws also include household pets.

If you have any questions concerning Massachusetts Abuse Prevention Orders, Massachusetts Restraining Orders or Massachusetts 209A Orders, we’d be happy to speak with you.  You can call us or email us here, and we’ll get right back to you.