CNN — A new law offers protections for domestic violence victims – and Texas has Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) (of filibuster fame) to thank yet again.
The Pets in Protective Orders bill, introduced by both Representative Jodie Laubenberg (R-Collin) and Senator Davis, ensures domestic violence victims can seek needed help and shelter without fear that their companion animal will be harmed or taken away from them by the abuser.
“There is a close link between domestic violence and pet abuse,” says Patt Nordyke, Executive Director for Texas Federation of Animal Care Societies. “Pets in Protective Orders gives judges another tool with which to protect humans in dangerously abusive relationships. Often the person being abused is afraid to take refuge because the abuser has threatened to abuse, maim, or kill the family pet. The law ensures that pets can be included in protective orders, giving the victim the assurances needed to leave the abusive situation.”
According to Nordyke, animal shelters have long been willing to work with domestic violence agencies by caring for victims’ pets, but they are unwilling to make this information public for fear of retribution from the abuser. This law gives both the victim and animal shelters some protection should the abuser demand their pet back.
The bill has been introduced in four legislative sessions since 2007. It passed in 2011, “but failed to have an appropriate enforcement component, according to county and district attorneys,” says Nordyke. Recent changes to the language in Senate Bill 555 passed on a consent vote in the Senate, merged with the house bill, and will became law September 1.
“We are thrilled to finally have this as law in Texas,” says Nordyke. “No longer will domestic violence victims need to stay in an abusive situation because they are worried about threats to their pets. It’s a law that ensures the safety of both people and animals.”