Bill Considered In Michigan House Would Help Protect Pets From Domestic Abusers

LANSING (WWJ) – A Michigan House committee is considering a bill to help victims of domestic violence — and their canine and feline companions.

House Bill 4478 would allow the person applying for a Personal Protection Order to include his or her pets.

Rep. Robert Kosowski (D-Westland) — who sponsored  the bill — says if it’s passed, a check box would be added to a PPO form to let victims of domestic violence know they can include their pets.

“Unfortunately, domestic violence is about control — and sadly abusers often use the treat of violence against an animal to try and control their victim,” Kosowski said. “Allowing PPOs to include animals will make it easier for victims to leave abusive situations and keep themselves and their pets safe.”

Under the bill, the object of the PPO would be legally restrained from  injuring, killing, torturing, neglecting, or threatening to injure, kill, torture, or neglect the animal, removing the animal from the petitioner’s possession, retaining or obtaining possession of the animal.

Ann Griffin, with the Michigan Humane Society, spoke out in support of the legislation at Tuesday’s committee hearing.

“MHS has had unfortunate first-hand experience dealing with animals and people in domestic violence situations,” Griffin said. “And unfortunately over the years there have been countless, probably, anecdotal stories about people who have approached MHS, and they are victims of domestic violence, and they’re worried about what will happen to their pets.”

Griffin said because domestic violence victims are worried about leaving their pets with abusers, they often look to surrender the animals or have them humanely euthanized as “a better option.”

According to Alana Kivowitz, a crisis counselor at Life Line, about 85 percent of women surveyed at domestic violence shelters reported incidents of animal abuse by their abuser — but only 3 percent of shelters currently accept animals alongside survivors.

Kosowski said 28 U.S.  states have similar laws in place to protect pets. In Minnesota, numbers of PPOs that included pets rose from 167 to 1,067 since 2010.

House Bill 4478 is part a package focused on domestic violence.  Another bill on the table, sponsored by Rep. Harvey Santana (D-Detroit), would prohibit a court from ordering both parties in a domestic dispute to enter mediation against their will.

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