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Old 08-13-2006, 08:55 AM   #1
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Laws Consider Pets In Domestic Violence Cases

Something we might not consider- but it most certainly is abuse and a crime to abuse and kill an animal, and to use that and the threat of that to abuse and control a partner or spouse. I am all for protecting animals, and for anything and everything that can possibly further protect and help abused women.

So sick and twisted, and so very sad

(Reuters) After 11 years of abuse, Susan Walsh knew her husband was a problem. He had threatened her, beat her and killed some of their turkeys and sheep, leaving the corpses out for her to find.

But the last straw came in 2001, when he killed her dog while she was out of town visiting family.

"He had run over my border collie, who was fairly old at that point," Walsh recalled in a phone interview. "She was blind and deaf and she never saw him coming. He just ran her over in the driveway."

Abusive spouses often use threats to pets to keep their victims from leaving, according to domestic abuse experts. To make it easier for those people to leave their abusers, domestic violence support groups and animal welfare advocates are lobbying for laws that protect pets from domestic abuse.

Maine, Vermont and New York were the first states to enact laws allowing judges to include pets in protection orders, which require abusers to stay away from their victims. The New Jersey and Illinois legislatures are considering similar measures.

"The desire to protect a pet is often a deterrent for women or victims leaving a situation like this, because they're afraid if they do, their pets will be harmed," said Sherry Lane of Caring Unlimited, a shelter in Sanford, Maine.

Despite the torment she experienced, Walsh and their two children stayed with her husband out of fear that if they left, he'd kill the rest of the animals on their 32-acre farm in Ellsworth, Maine, 250 miles northeast of Boston.

"He would use the animals and threats to them as a tool to try and control me -- 'If you try to leave, I can do this. I can do worse,"' Walsh said.

Amy, a domestic violence victim from Windsor County, Vermont, said having a pet on a protection order gets the police's attention.

After years of abuse, Amy's husband disappeared with her dog, and filed for divorce while in hiding, leaving her wondering what would befall her pet if she contested terms.

He wanted "to control me and for me to acquiesce, to say, 'Whatever you want, just give me back my dog,"' said Amy, who asked that her last name be withheld.

Two months after her husband disappeared, she learned the dog was being kept alone at an empty apartment a few miles away, fed by a local woman. She approached local police to get the dog back, but said her concerns were ignored.

"I felt that they were laughing at me, that it was, 'Come on, let's talk about what's important,"' Amy said.

She said she believes her experience would have been different if the new Vermont law was on the books then.

"If you call the police and say, 'I have an order of protection for my pet,' they are going to take it seriously because there is a reason. And without that, there's nothing," Amy said. "Is it going to protect you from a fist? No. But it's going to give you an edge."

While many women's shelters do not accept pets, programs like Pets and Women to Safety at the Animal Welfare Society of West Kennebunk, Maine, fill that void.

Steve Jacobsen, that shelter's executive director, said Caring Unlimited approached his group eight years ago, looking for a place to bring victims' pets.

His shelter now takes in 12 to 24 pets a year. Local volunteers care for them in their own homes. It's one of about 160 U.S. animal shelters that board pets of domestic violence victims, according to the Humane Society.

Domestic violence affects roughly 700,000 Americans each year, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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Old 08-13-2006, 09:24 AM   #2
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It's all linked. If domestic violence affects roughly 700,000 people, then there will be roughly 700,000 households with animals being mistreated, too. And of that, however many children per household who are more at risk to grow up and perpetuate the cycle.


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Old 08-14-2006, 05:07 PM   #3
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This is so sad. I am remembering a dog I loved to death that I had to get a new home for because of a sick ex-boyfriend. I hope there is some viable option created for pets of women/children trying to leave an abusive situation.
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Old 08-14-2006, 07:28 PM   #4
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"He would use the animals and threats to them as a tool to try and control me -- 'If you try to leave, I can do this. I can do worse,"' Walsh said.
While pets, animals and other belongings of a couple can be used to manipulate the other, I think they should focus on better laws to protect children in divorce situations. In numerous cases, I’ve seen a parent manipulate just about every aspect of a child’s life in order to get back at the ex. The loss suffered by the children in these situations is unnecessary.
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