Press Release

Animal wellness groups applaud passage of pet-friendly domestic violence bill

Legislation will allow domestic violence survivors to protect their pets

Pittsburgh, PA — Animal Wellness Action, the Center for a Humane Economy, and Humane Action Pittsburgh applaud the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for passing a bill that offers protection for pets in domestic violence situations.

 HB1210, led by co-prime sponsors Reps. Christina Sappey (D-Chester) and Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny), would amend the state’s Domestic Relations Act and allow a judge who issues a protection-from-abuse order to give the person seeking protection temporary ownership of family pets. It would also allow a judge to order the defendant not to take or abuse pets or enter the property of a person in possession of the pets. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that doesn’t currently allow companion animals to be included in these orders, and many domestic violence victims will choose to stay in violent situations in order to stay with their pets.

“This bill is a common sense, bipartisan issue” said Natalie Ahwesh, executive director for Humane Action Pittsburgh and director of state affairs for Animal Wellness Action. “Abusers often use family pets as leverage in the torment of their victims, threatening to harm or kill animals if victims leave.  With this bill, we can protect both animals and humans.”

Humane Action Pittsburgh (HAP) has worked on the bill for more than one year, mobilizing support from across the Commonwealth, and the country. HAP earned endorsements on the bill from a wide variety of stakeholders, including the Pennsylvania Sheriff’s Association, the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, Animal Wellness Action, and dozens of animal welfare, local law enforcement, and victim advocacy groups.

“This piece of legislation acknowledges the sad, but undeniable link between cruelty to animals and abuse visited upon domestic partners,” said Josh Marquis, director of legal affairs and law enforcement for Animal Wellness Action and a working prosecutor for more than 40 years. “I have seen all too often cases where abusive partners have used both threatened and actual violence against their partner’s beloved pets as a means of control. Or revenge.”

“Most pets are beloved and cherished members of families. Unfortunately, they can be used in domestic violence situations in my experience,” says Pittsburgh Police Officer Christine Luffey, who is a 30-plus-year veteran. “Victims will remain in abusive relationships to protect the animal that they love.  Often abusers threaten to hurt or kill animals if the victim tries to leave the relationship.  It is very important for animals to be included in these orders in certain cases.  It is truly a victory that the bill to include animals in has passed the House.  I pray that the bill will be passed by the Senate making Pennsylvania a more humane state.  Many animals suffer in silence.  We need to be their voice.”

A growing body of research has repeatedly established the link between animal abuse and violence toward people. Animal cruelty, which is disturbingly widespread across the country, often serves as an indicator of interpersonal violence such as child abuse, intimate partner violence, and elder abuse. 

Center for a Humane Economy is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(3) whose mission is to help animals by helping forge a more humane economic order. The first organization of its kind in the animal protection movement, the Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and the degradation of the environment and embrace innovation as a means of eliminating both. The Center believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @TheHumaneCenter

Animal Wellness Action is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) whose mission is to help animals by promoting laws and regulations at federal, state and local levels that forbid cruelty to all animals. The group also works to enforce existing anti-cruelty and wildlife protection laws. Animal Wellness Action believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @AWAction_News

Humane Action Pittsburgh is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to advance the protection of all animals by empowering people to affect change through education, policy, and community action.