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Including pets in protection orders

Published (3/4/2010)
By Mike Cook
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A civil order for protection can keep an offender away from a victim’s home and workplace. Fido and Fluffy could also get included in the order.

Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul) sponsors HF1396 that would permit a court to include provisions for the care, possession or control of a pet or companion animal in a protective order.

Approved March 3 by the House Civil Justice Committee on a 6-5 vote, the bill was sent to the House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee.

Six DFLers voted yes, and Rep. Dave Olin (DFL-Thief River Falls) joined four Republicans in voting no. Olin said, in 32 years as a prosecutor, he’s never dealt with this issue and doesn’t know if this is “an earth-shaking matter” that justifies being in statute.

“You’ve heard these cases, not just in the metropolitan area, but all through the state where a batterer has thrown a dog or a puppy against a wall, or thrown an animal off a porch,” Paymar said. “It’s not just out of anger that they’re doing this; they’re trying to reach deep into that battered woman’s psyche and saying, ‘If you don’t stay, if you don’t stop what you’re doing this is what’s going to happen to you, or this is what’s going to happen to the kids or the pets.’”

Sarah Gorman, a deputy with the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, said a battered family’s safety should not rely on a pet’s status. “Several studies have shown that as many as 71 percent of women who have fled violent relationships report actual or threatened violence to their pets; 54 percent report actual violence or death of the animal; and 60 percent report a worry for their pet as affecting their decision to leave a relationship.”

Rep. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) wondered what would stop a filer from adding a pet to the protection order purely out of nastiness.

“I’m not saying that can never happen,” Paymar said. “There are 13 or 14 other reliefs. Checking a box for a lot of those reliefs could add spite. … Does that happen? I think so, but in very few cases.”

A companion, SF838, sponsored by Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul), awaits action by the full Senate.

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