Texas Crime and Corrections
1:00 am
Thu December 26, 2013

New law protects pets in domestic disputes

The holidays are a time for gift-giving and celebration but, for some, it's also a time of increased family and financial pressure. Some mental health health professionals say this pressure can lead to a spike in domestic violence. 

In Texas, domestic violence victims who find the courage to leave an abusive situation can now have their pets included in protective orders.

Patt Nordyke of the Texas Federation of Animal Care Societies fought for eight years to pass the law in the Texas legislature.

"It's difficult to get animal bills passed in the legislature," Nordyke says. "I had an aide say 'Oh, yeah, I read this, it said pets,' in a dismissive manner. We had a cheat sheet with us and I said, 'Read the bottom line to me,' and the bottom line said, 'This bill says pets in protective orders, but it also protects people.'"

Nordyke says it protects people by removing barriers that keep a domestic violence victim from leaving an abusive situation. She says abusers will often threaten the lives of pets in order to keep their victims close.

"If you’ve ever had an animal that you really loved and somebody threatened to kill it, imagine the impact it would have on you," Nordyke says. "And this is in addition to the fact that the people whose pets are being threatened are also being abused and beaten."

The law took effect in September. It gives Texas courts full authority to prohibit someone from taking the pet of a person under protective order.

But the work isn’t over for the Texas Federation of Animal Care Societies. Nordyke says they’re now working to make sure animals that are removed with their owners from abusive situations have a safe place to go. 

They’re working to put together a database of animal shelters and foster families across the state that are willing to help.

“So that once a family leaves and they contact us we can say ‘Okay, there’s a shelter here that will take your animals.’”

Click here to learn more about the Texas Federation of Animal Care Societies.