Panzer, a 6-year-old Labrador mix, will no longer have to live in fear of his guardian’s allegedly violent boyfriend, now that a Massachusetts judge has awarded the dog protection in the state’s first ever restraining order of this type. The new law, signed by Gov. Deval Patrick in August, considers the welfare of animals in homes plagued by domestic violence and authorizes the state’s courts to make protection orders inclusive of household pets. Panzer (who allegedly had been kicked and dragged by the abusive boyfriend before) is now safely living with a foster family. Panzer’s guardian and her 2-year-old son receive regular updates about the dog’s wellbeing, and once they are settled in a safe place, both will be joyfully reunited with their much-loved canine family member. This is great news for Panzer and other household pets in Massachusetts.
Does California Similarly Protect Animals?
Yes! Fortunately, California law also protects animals in this way. (In fact, 22 states and Washington D.C.  have enacted legislation that includes pets in protective orders.) According to CA FAM § 6320 – 6327 , on the showing of good cause, a California court may include in a protective order a grant to the petitioner of the exclusive care, possession or control of a household pet. In short, when filing  for a restraining order, a victim of domestic violence can ask the judge to grant custody of a pet, and also ask the judge to order the restrained person to stay away from a pet and to not take or harm the pet in any way.
Importance of Protecting Guardians and Pets
Panzer’s story highlights the importance of protecting all victims of domestic violence, including pets. In a national survey  of shelters for women who are battered, 71% of domestic violence victims reported that their abuser also targeted their animal. In addition, the overwhelming majority  of domestic violence victims (including children) are emotionally close to their pets and distraught by the abuse that family pets typically experience in domestic violence situations, and many delay leaving abusive homes out of fear that their animals will be harmed. Thankfully, proper legislation helps to ensure animal safety and gives victims of domestic violence peace of mind, knowing that their pet can be safe.