Legal protection, sheltering, for pets of NE domestic-abuse victims
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
For some people experiencing domestic violence, concern about the safety of their household pet can prevent them from leaving. In a survey of 2,500 domestic-violence survivors
, about half reported they feared the perpetrator would harm their pet. Nearly a third reported their pet had been harmed or killed.
Pat Carraher, managing attorney with Legal Aid of Nebraska, said as of September 1st, Nebraska law allows pets to be included in domestic-violence protection orders, and added the law should deter perpetrators from using pets as leverage, since violating a protection order is a crime.
"It's a Class I misdemeanor, and if you violate it twice, it gets bumped up to a felony. Up until now, a perpetrator of domestic violence could make a lot of threats about a household pet without really worrying about much criminal liability," Carraher explained.
Carraher said when an individual fills out the paperwork for a domestic-abuse protection order, they can check one box asking for possession of the household pet, and/or another requesting that the other party "be enjoined from harming" it. He says Legal Aid of Nebraska
puts "high priority" on representing victims of domestic violence, including in protection-order cases.
The Nebraska Humane Society's Project Pet Safe
will temporarily shelter domestic pets for people working with a caseworker in domestic-abuse situations. Pam Wiese with the Humane Society says they will help in other ways, too.
"While they're with us, we try to provide anything that we can, so if they need spaying and neutering, microchipping; if they need some type of medical (care) done, we work to try to get that pet into the best shape that it can be so that they can kind of start their new life on a good footing, " Wiese explained.
Wiese added some pet owners will realize they can't reunite with their pet, but Project Pet Safe provides them valuable time.
"Even if they feel that they can't take care of the pet moving forward, they are able to make that decision for themselves, and it's not forced upon them," Wiese said.
Some victims of domestic violence find they have to leave their pet behind, and Carraher said the new law is designed to help in those situations, too.
"If for some reason they can't take the pet with them, they might check that second box, knowing that they are going to leave the pet but that the perpetrator of domestic violence will be ordered not to harm the pet," Carraher continued.
As of 2022, 38 states had some provisions for adding pets to domestic-violence protection orders.
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