Tonight’s post on pets and domestic violence is from our newest family law Attorney practicing in Marietta and Atlanta, Megan McClinton.
In 2011, a Georgia bill that would have redefined family and domestic violence died on the vine.
I was recently reminded of this when I read the story of a 23 year old Florida man who was arrested for beating his father’s dachshund to death with a flashlight. A Florida court had issued an order of protection against the son for the father because of past domestic disputes, yet the little dog fell the way of so many other companion animals living with domestic violence.
72% of domestic violence victims report that their pet or companion animal had been threatened or killed by their abusers. Domestic violence is about control, and often the pets are the easiest targets.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated §19-13-1 defines family violence as battery, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, criminal trespass, or any felony committed between a lengthy list of “persons”: spouses, parents and child, persons who live together in a household, and so on. In Georgia, you cannot explicitly identify your pet as a member of your family for protection from domestic violence in a protective order. They are just “property” which can be criminally damagee.
Some people argue, we’ve outlawed animal cruelty, isn’t that enough? No, it’s not. Twenty-nine states have laws that identify companion animals as entitled to protection under temporary/permanent protective orders arising out of family violence proceedings. This means that when a victim of violence goes to a court to ask for protection for themselves and/or their children, the order of the court can also include their pets and that when an abuser messes with the family pet, the batterer is just as much in contempt as they would have been if they’d violated the order against their human victim.
A definition of family violence that includes violence against pets gives the courts and law enforcement the leeway to safeguard victim animals. People who commit acts of violence against animals are not likely to stop there – they go on to commit acts of violence against people. And we all know that when we define our own families, we don’t leave out the dog, cat, bird, or fish. The attorneys at The Manely Firm are committed to advocating for every member of your family, including those of the four-legged and even non-legged variety.
After all, our pets are not just our “property” – they are members of our family, deserving of protection from domestic violence.