Including pets in protective orders.

AuthorBattle, Tim

There is a growing awareness of the importance of pets to their owners, and especially to victims of domestic violence who rely on them for comfort and security at a time when they are most needed. Perpetrators of violence know this too--which is why they often threaten, harm, or even kill the pets of their victims as a way of controlling them.

As long ago as 1904, visionaries like Louise McKinney recognized the connection between animal cruelty and family violence.

Numerous studies have demonstrated this dynamic. The Alberta SPCA's study "Inside the Cruelty Connection: The Role of Animals in Decision-Making by Domestic Violence Victims in Rural Alberta" (2012) found that 59% of pet-owning women in emergency shelters delayed leaving the abusive environment out of concern for their pets. In 36% of the cases, animals were threatened by the abuser--and 85% of those threats were carried out. Interviews with victims show how difficult it can be for women with pets or livestock to leave a violent relationship, and how the animals suffer as an abuser controls the victims by threatening or harming the animals.

In addition, children often (85% of the time) witness the threat or harm to the animal--and in half of the situations it is the child's own pet. This undoubtedly causes emotional distress to all the victims in such situations, and the thought of escaping a violent home while leaving the animal behind becomes an impenetrable barrier to seeking help.

Not that this knowledge is new. As long ago as 1904, visionaries like Louise McKinney recognized the connection between animal cruelty and family violence. Louise petitioned her peers to form humane societies and promote humane education as ways to counteract violence. Other historical figures also connected the dots and saw the need for animal cruelty laws to help build a more compassionate society.

So, with the growing body of empirical evidence, is the law keeping up? Specifically, is there adequate legal protection for animals--not just for the animals' sake but for their human owners who won't, or can't, leave their beloved companions behind?

Protective orders cannot be written to protect pets for their own sake. However, pets can be included if doing so will help protect the person for whom the order is written.

There are some legal devices available to those who need protection from a spouse or other family member. Known collectively as "protective orders," these vary from province to...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT