– The House today approved legislation drafted in partnership between Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington) and Rep. Christina Sappey (D-Chester) to expand protection from abuse (PFA) orders to include pets.
“We know through studies and statistics that abuse victims often choose to stay with their abuser out of concern for their pets. In fact, many women in domestic violence shelters report that their abuser threatened, injured or killed a pet,” Mihalek said. “As a former county prosecutor, I lost count of how many cases I have seen where a pet is used to manipulate and coerce victims to stay and continue enduring the abuse.”
PFA orders are filed with a judge and are designed to prevent an individual from having contact with, and prohibits any form of abusive behavior toward, another person. Extensive research has shown that when an abuser can no longer harm an individual due to a PFA, they often turn their attention to vulnerable family pets, subjecting them to continued abuse and further traumatizing the victim.
The legislation, House Bill 1210
, was crafted in coordination with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) and the Humane Society of the United States. The legislation also garnered the support of over 70 law enforcement, domestic violence and advocacy organizations.
“The decision to leave an abusive environment is difficult enough. Making certain that a pet can live free from abuse needs to be part of PFA system, so it doesn’t further complicate the victim’s decision and also safeguards a loyal part of the family,” Mihalek said. “I want to thank Rep. Sappey for working with me on this and seeing it as high as a priority as I do.”
"Pets are considered family and play an essential role in offering comfort to individuals experiencing trauma from abuse,” Sappey said. “It is imperative that we take decisive action to safeguard animals, ensuring their safety alongside the well-being of those suffering from domestic violence."
The legislation now moves to the Senate.