SEATTLE, Wash. - West Virginia just joined Washington as one of more
than a dozen states that include pets in domestic violence protection
orders. Advocates say the new protective order for pets will help women
get out of abusive situations.
Tracy Coppola, legislative analyst with the American Humane
Association, says 70 percent of victims report their abuser
threatened or hurt their pets.
"They'll say, 'If you leave me I will kill the cat,' or 'I'll stab the
cat.' The abuser will often hurt the pet or threaten to hurt the pet in
order to scare the victim into submission."
The West Virginia law is similar to the law adopted in Washington State
in 2009. Thirteen states now have similar measures on the books.
State Rep. Brendan Williams (D-Dist 26) sponsored the measure (HB 1148),
which became law last year. Williams says he heard testimony that
convinced him there is a link between violence against pets and the
abuse of people.
"We had a woman from Shoreline who testified about her abusive husband
setting her home and her two dogs on fire as a means of controlling her.
It really is part of a pattern of criminal deviancy that you see in a
domestic violence situation."
Coppola says violence against animals can desensitize the children in an
abusive home and distort their view of the world.
"People who even witness animal cruelty are over eight times more likely
to perpetrate violence. These kids are not necessarily being abused
themselves, but they're witnessing the violence to their animal."