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Movement aims to protect pets, victims in domestic abuse situationsSubmitted: 05/06/2015

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PHILLIPS - Many times, a cat or dog in the home makes domestic violence situations even more complicated. The abuser may hurt the animal, or the victim might be reluctant to get out of the home while leaving the animal behind.

TimeOut of Price County serves victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Its workers hear story after story of innocent pets being involved in abusive situations.

"(Victims say,) 'I see this happening to my pet constantly. My abuser has a bad day or we get into an argument and they take it out on my pet. I fear for my safety, I fear for my pet's safety,'" said Becky Steinbach, a Sexual Assault Program Coordinator at TimeOut in Phillips.


Sometimes in an abusive relationship, a pet is the only thing a victim can trust.

"They rely pretty heavily on their pets for companionship," Steinbach said. "With that, the abuser knows that and will torture the pet, or hurt the pet in some way, or threaten to, if the victim is to leave."

"It is one more element of control that an abuser has over a victim," said Rep. Andre Jacque (R-DePere).

Jacque worked with Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) to create a bill that would expand restraining order options in domestic violence situations. The bill would allow judges to include pets in restraining orders.

"In approximately half of all domestic abuse cases, it is a significant factor in delaying leaving that very negative situation," Jacque said.

The proposed bill might give victims more protection in situations which include pets.

"I had somebody come in. The abuser had killed two of their dogs," Steinbach said. "She said, 'I know we're next, because we're not getting another dog.'"

TimeOut serves Price, Rusk, and Washburn Counties. Their Rusk County shelter in Ladysmith has an agreement with the local animal shelter. Pets of abuse victims can stay at the animal shelter while the victim is at the abuse shelter.

"A lot of shelters, ours included, are looking at being some sort of kenneling system ourselves, where maybe it's in a garage or a separate building," said Steinbach.

Other shelters in the Northwoods area say they hear major concerns on a regular basis about domestic abuse and pets. HAVEN serves Lincoln County, and the Tri-County Council serves Oneida, Forest, and Vilas Counties. Both organizations often hear similar concerns.

Jacque's bill on restraining orders passed the state Senate on a voice vote on Wednesday. Wisconsin would be the 29th state with a law of this kind if it gets support from the Assembly and Governor Walker.

That looks likely. The bill was cosponsored by several legislators from both parties.

"I am very happy that this is an area where there has been very strong and consistent bipartisan support," Jacque said.

Story By: Ben Meyer

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