Some Background on the Ground-breaking Maine Law Including Dogs in Protective Orders

Have you been wondering how to get your state to move forward like Maine has and include dogs in protective orders? If so, check out...

Joy  |  Aug 9th 2006


Pet Law Information

Have you been wondering how to get your state to move forward like Maine has and include dogs in protective orders? If so, check out this article from the ABAJournal EReport.

Thanks Lynn H. for sending this in!

SAVING FIDO
New State Law Allows Pets to Be Included in Protective Orders

BY ARIN GREENWOOD

Leave me and Ill kill the dog. Its a classic intimidation tool in domestic violence cases, says Portland, Maine, lawyer Anne H. Jordan. And it can prevent a battered spouse from leaving home to seek help.

A new law in Maine, drafted with Jordans help, tackles that problem. The measure, which takes effect this month, is the first in the U.S. giving judges the explicit power to grant protective orders for animals in domestic violence cases. It is an important step both in protecting domestic violence victims and in protecting animals, says Jordan, who is also a member of Maines Animal Welfare Advisory Council, a group appointed by the governor to advise the agriculture commissioner on animal welfare matters.

Jordan says the idea for the law first came up after a state bar program she organized about the connection between domestic/child abuse and animal abuse. “Im a former prosecutor, [and I] used to do a lot of domestic violence prosecutions,” Jordan says. “I knew there was a connection way back.”

At the end of the program, she says, a group of lawyers and judges stood around talking about what, if anything, could be done to combat the problem. Jordan recalls that one judge posed the question: Could pets simply be added to protective orders?

Jordan decided it was time to act. Working with the Animal Welfare Advisory Council, she drafted the statute making clear that judges can protect animals under protective orders. The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Piotti, passed in March.

“In Maine, we estimate that 70 percent of the victims of domestic abuse also have their pets threatened,” says Piotti, a Democrat. “This is a very real issue that this bill is finally tackling.”

Jordan says that Vermont, New York and Illinois are all considering similar legislation.

Even before this new law was passed, however, Maine was one of a handful of jurisdictions that already had a program that protected domestic violence victims and their animals. Called Pets and Women to Safety, the effort is a partnership between an animal shelter called the Animal Welfare Society in West Kennebunk and a domestic violence shelter in Sanford called Caring Unlimited.

Launched in 2001, PAWS provides foster homes for the pets of domestic violence victims on a confidential basis, says Katie Dolloff, program coordinator at the Animal Welfare Society. “The foster homes dont know whose pets theyre fostering, and even the victims dont know where their pets are,” she says. Each year, she says, the calls and the placements are increasing.

Dolloff hopes the new law will encourage more shelters around the state to organize to provide similar placement services. To that end, she is spending the summer on the road, helping shelters across the state start their own programs.

Meanwhile, Jordan says many in Maine are already thinking of how to improve the law that just passed. “I ran into the commissioner of public safety,” says Jordan. “We were talking about ways to improve it in the next legislative session.”

For example, the law currently provides for pets to be covered under permanent protective orders but not temporary orders. Jordan thinks both should be allowed. “This would provide even further protection for the victims and their pets and again remove a barrier that prevents many victims from leaving their abusive situations,” she says