A Publication of WTVP

No, you didn’t misread the title to this article. A current bill within the Illinois House of Representatives, namely House Bill 5788, is trying to accomplish just that. If this bill becomes law, pets may be listed by name as protected parties in Official Orders of Protection issued by the court system. But before you begin the almost automatic reaction of the average person with grumblings of the legislature’s time being wasted on frivolous issues, you should consider the true stride this proposed bill could be toward the goal of eliminating the problem of domestic violence.

Orders of Protection are court orders requiring someone to stay away from another person or persons, their place of business, and/or their homes and specified family members, when the complaining person feels threatened by contact with that person. Orders of Protection can limit all contact between the parties or they can limit only contact considered harassment, intimidation, interference with personal liberty, physical abuse, or willful deprivation. Orders of Protection have long been used between people who were formerly romantically involved or married, and are often extended to include children as other parties protected under the order.

House Bill 5788 would extend the parties protected under protective orders to include pets of the protected person, both parties, or a child of the parties. This change calls for amendments to Illinois’ Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 and the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986. The legislature says the purpose of the proposed bill is it “provides that the court may include in the order of protection granting the petitioner the exclusive care, custody, or control of any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by either the petitioner or the respondent or a minor child residing in the residence or household of either the petitioner or the respondent and ordering the respondent to stay away from the animal and forbidding the respondent from taking, transferring, encumbering, concealing, harming, or otherwise disposing of the animal.”

In layman’s terms, this proposed bill prevents the party upon which the Order of Protection is issued against from injuring or killing the protected animal, giving it away or selling it, or hiding it from the other person. It can also give “custody” of the animal to the protected party.

While animal lovers may find the animal’s safety enough of a reason to allow for Orders of Protection to include pets, the theory behind this action has little to do with the animals. Animals are considered personal property under the law. They aren’t considered as emotional or thoughtful beings, but are treated similarly to property such as cars, furniture, or tools. So, what is the real incentive to allow for their protection in Orders of Protection? Many people form deep emotional attachments to their pets. Abusers often are aware of this emotional bond, and when they can’t directly abuse the person, they may physically abuse the pet to psychologically abuse the person. They often threaten to kill, injure, or otherwise dispose of a person’s pet if that person would ever leave them or the abusive relationship. The fear this creates in victims of domestic violence often makes them stay with their abuser longer for fear of leaving the pet.

A study from Utah State University found that more than 70 percent of women at abuse shelters reported their abusers had killed, harmed, or threatened their pets. This proposed bill acknowledges pet abuse is one dimension of the dynamic of domestic violence. Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) is one of the House sponsors of this bill, and hopes to push this legislation through in the November veto session.  IBI