MVMA pushes animal protection legislation

Measure directs courts to consider pets when issuing domestic violence protective orders

January 14, 2009 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

The Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) has authored legislation designed to protect animals in domestic violence situations.

MVMA plans to push the bill, scheduled to be submitted today, into the state’s domestic relations code. If passed, the statutory change would direct courts to consider animals when issuing emergency protection orders.

Led by Maine, Vermont and New York, 10 states have passed legislation to allow courts to include family pets in temporary restraining orders or orders of protection, or to address violence against pets in domestic violations situations in other ways, the bill’s language states.

“Judges already can issue protective orders that include animals,” explains Susan Weinstein, MVMA executive director. “By including specific language, we’re trying to make it something that they regularly check on when they’re considering orders for children.”

MVMA’s bill closely mirrors last year’s attempt to address the issue, which was held up on a technicality in the House Committee on Ways and Means. This year, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals plans to submit a similar measure to the Legislature, which potentially could rewrite a different area of the state’s domestic relations code.

Other bills headed for the Massachusetts Legislature, which beings its session this week, reportedly will address puppy mills and farm-animal confinement. The Humane Society of the United States is lobbying for both initiatives.

An attempt to ban the devocalization of dogs as well as a rewrite of the state’s animal control laws also are on the agenda.



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