Evolution in Animal Law

The state of Maine was the first. Then others thought it might be a wise practice. At present, twenty-nine states are legally allowing our animal companions to be included in ‘Protection From Abuse’ orders along with their human guardians against perpetrators of domestic violence.

It began in 2005 at a workshop for judges and other interested parties when judges were left with the dilemma of whether or not they could include pets on protection orders. As many of us know, a large number of individuals that seek a safer life elsewhere have stayed with an abuser because the abuser has threatened harm or death upon their animal companion. One survey found that 71% of victims stated their animal companions had been harmed or killed by their abusers.

These laws not only protect the animal, but allow law enforcement to help retriever them from the home, grant them the same protection as any other member of the family and are included in bonding issues.

Even the states that do not have this law (see list at bottom of blog[i] ) include legal language that can give the court the discretion to include our animal companions under temporary restraining orders (TRO’s) and assistance with removing them from the abuser’s house.

The Animal Welfare Institute, since 2014, has been working to produce a manual for the states that do not currently have provisions for the entire family that outlines how lawyers may include a client’s animal companions under TRO’s so they can be protected from harm. In my home state of Wisconsin, such a law has passed the state senate and is awaiting further consideration and I’m hopeful it will be a full-fledged law in the very near future. But if not, there is still help out there for victims and their four-legged companions, in large part to the work of the AWI.

All of this is very encouraging. Society has deemed there can no longer be a dollar amount placed on the value of our animal companions. They are not ‘just a dog’. They are not ‘just a cat’. They are irreplaceable pieces of our family. Guardians have considered them priceless for decades and the courts and legal system are finally catching up to reflect that thought process.

These are interesting turn of events that leads one to consider how our society is changing in our attitude towards the other Beings we share with Mother Earth.  Changing our perspective on what we as a society accept as moral treatment of our animal companions can only draw us one step closer to how we view each other and the world. Perhaps a kinder, gentler society awaits the next generation and that would be a lasting legacy worthy of our spirit.

[i]States that does not yet provide court sanctioned protections are: AK, MT, WY, ID, UT, ND, SD, NE, NM, KS, MO, MS, AL, GA, KY, IN, MI, WI, PA, DE and RI.

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