HB 1210: Protecting Companion Animals in Abuse Cases

by | Jun 27, 2024

By: Abhi Nadendla

In a landmark step towards enhancing the safety and welfare of both human and animal victims of domestic violence, House Bill 1210 (HB 1210) proposes a significant expansion of protection from abuse (PFA) orders. The bill aims to allow for companion animals to be included under the protective umbrella of these orders, recognizing the critical role pets play in the lives of abuse victims and the unique vulnerabilities they face in abusive environments.

The Need For HB 1210

Domestic violence is a pervasive issue that affects millions of individuals across the United States. Victims of abuse often endure not only physical and emotional harm, but also the threat of violence against their beloved pets. Abusers frequently exploit this bond, using threats and actual harm to animals as a means of exerting control and instilling fear. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 71% of women entering domestic violence shelters report that their abuser threatened, harmed, or killed their family pets.

For many victims, the fear of leaving their pets behind in a dangerous situation is a significant barrier to escaping an abusive relationship. Traditional PFAs offer protection to individuals by legally prohibiting abusers from contacting or coming near them. However, without explicit legal protections for pets, abusers can continue to exert power and control by targeting these vulnerable family members. Thus, this bill provides a double-pronged support by ensuring the wellbeing of pets and removing a source of worry for their owners.

Breaking Down the Bill

HB 1210 seeks to address this critical gap by allowing judges to include companion animals in PFAs. Key provisions of the bill include:

  • Inclusion of Companion Animals: Judges can specify in PFA orders that abusers are prohibited from harming, threatening, or having any contact with the victim’s companion animals.
  • Removal and Custody of Pets: The bill allows for the removal of pets from the abuser’s residence and places them under the temporary care and custody of the victim or a designated safe shelter.
  • Enforcement and Penalties: Violations of the PFA, including those related to companion animals, would be subject to the same legal consequences as other violations of protection orders.

Impact on Victims and Pets

As aforementioned, the inclusion of pets in PFAs is expected to have several positive outcomes such as enhanced safety for victims. By ensuring that pets are protected, survivors can leave abusive environments without the added stress and fear for their animals’ safety. Furthermore, this bill would also result in a reduction in abuse tactics as abusers would lose a significant tool of manipulation and control; by making it illegal to put their pets in harm’s way, the overall severity of the abuse would be lessened as victims no longer feel the same pressure to comply. Lastly, this bill could also work to empower those being abused as they would be more likely to seek help and report any domestic violence since they know it will ensure that their pets will be safe and protected.

Support and Advocacy

HB 1210 has garnered strong support from domestic violence advocacy groups, law enforcement agencies, animal welfare organizations, and legal professionals. Advocates argue that the bill is a necessary evolution in the legal response to domestic violence, aligning with a growing recognition of the importance of pets in victims’ lives and holding the promise of offering much-needed relief and security to countless individuals and their beloved animals.

“Pets are family members and play an essential role in offering comfort to individuals experiencing abuse,” said Pennsylvania State Representative Christina Sappey. “It is imperative that we take action to safeguard animals in conjunction with the well-being of those suffering from domestic violence.”

HB1210 has already passed the House with bipartisan support. Now, it is imperative we work together to pass this bill through the Senate by the end of the year. However, Pennsylvania is currently one out of ten states that hasn’t supported its progression. To turn this around, we need you to contact your PA senator and encourage them to support this bill as it moves through the legislative process. Click here to find your PA state senator.

Ultimately, the passage of HB 1210 would mark a significant step forward in the fight against domestic violence, ensuring that all members of a household, human and animal alike, are safeguarded from harm.

 

AUTHORS

Aimee Douglass is the Director of Compassionate Living. Aimee works in the healthcare industry and has a bachelors degree in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and a masters degree in Communications with a health care focus from Southern New Hampshire University.

Abhi Nadendla is a blogger at HAP and has been volunteering at the organization since late 2022. She is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and loves spending her free time helping out at animal shelters.

Hannah Lewis is a grant writer and blogger from Pittsburgh’s North Side who has been with HAP since 2020. In addition to writing and advocating for animals, she enjoys hiking, cooking plant-based meals, bouldering at her local climbing gym, and curling up with a good book and her long-haired cat, Freyja.

Kelly Frantz has recently joined the HAP family as a blog writer. She is passionate about animal protection and is excited to educate the community about animal welfare.