N.J. may protect pets in domestic abuse cases

    Family pets in New Jersey may get some legal protection in domestic violence cases.

    The Assembly Judiciary Committee has advanced legislation allowing judges to extend restraining orders against those accused of abuse to cover family pets.

    Chief Victor Amato of the Monmouth County SPCA said some victims of domestic abuse won’t leave home because they want to make sure their pet isn’t harmed.

    “When there are restraining orders and the wife leaves and the animal stays, the husband can take his vengeance out on the animal because maybe the animal was more devoted to the wife,” Amato said. “She was maybe the caregiver of the animal. The wife will go back knowing that he’s not taking care of her property. So she’ll put herself back into an abusive situation.”

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    Animal rights advocates support the legislation. Kathleen Schatzmann, the state director for the Humane Society, said abusers often use those pets to coerce their victims.

    “Forty-eight percent of abusive families, where the animal is being abused, those women will not leave because the animal is going to be staying behind,” Schatzmann said. “They know there will be repercussions to their leaving, severe violence, often death to the animal.”

    The legislation, that’s modeled after a recently enacted law in Maine, is still awaiting action in the state Senate.

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