Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Bill Would Protect Pets In Domestic Abuse Cases

Bill Would Protect Pets In Domestic Abuse Cases

The law, under most circumstances, treats animals as property. But a bill moving forward in the Iowa Legislature would give pets a new level of protection in domestic abuse cases.

Senate File 2095, sponsored by Sen, Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

"Many (domestic abuse) victims report that they put off leaving an abuser because they fear for their pets," said Bolkcom. "Children often witness the abuse and are understandably distressed and emotionally distraught." He said constituents had brought his attention to the issue.

The bill would allow judges to issue an order that pets would stay in the care of the person who is protected by the order, and would also allow no-contact orders to be extended to pets.

Kristie Doser, executive director of the Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP) in Iowa City, says the bill has been on their agenda for some time. "Pets are an important part of some many people's families, and a common thing batterers do is to latch onto anything that will give them leverage," she said. "It's common to threaten to harm, or actually harm, pets. We've seen animals with severe injuries from being kicked or thrown across the room."

While DVIP does not take pets at their Iowa City shelter, Doser said they help arrange other accommodations for pets including temporary housing at the Iowa City Animal Shelter, boarding with kennels or veterinarians, and temporary foster homes for pets.

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