A measure in Utah to protect pets from domestic violence is moving forward.
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) One woman claimed that her previous partner purchased her a puppy to distract her from his drunkenness, but that when she tried to flee, he threatened to harm the dog.
Another woman told state legislators that her abusive boyfriend used her daughter's service dog to keep them under control since he knew they couldn't leave without it.Animal advocates and domestic violence experts told a Utah legislative committee on Friday that their experiences are not uncommon.
According to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, more than 70% of pet owners who enter a domestic violence shelter claim their abuser also threatened or harmed their animal. Because they're frightened for their pet, up to a quarter of survivors will return to an abusive spouse.
Rep. Angela Romero has introduced a measure to provide domestic violence survivors with options for protecting their pets. Her bill, HB175, would allow survivors to include their pets in protective orders issued by the court, banning the abuser from injuring, threatening, or attempting to seize custody of the animal.
Abusers frequently take advantage of their victims' emotional relationships to their dogs, according to Abigail Benesh of the Humane Society of Utah. Their pets are then used as pawns in this terrible game of intimidation, manipulation, and control in order to instill dread and compel compliance.
Animal abusers have been known to harm or even murder animals in order to retaliate against their victims, according to advocates who spoke to state legislators.
According to Rachel Heatley of the Humane Society, several cases have been well-publicized in recent years.
Two women accused a Farmington man of abusing them and harming or murdering their animals, and he was arrested last year. According to FOX13, one of the ladies claimed he murdered four of her animals in a two-month period.
A red heeler called Dixie was set on fire and abandoned near Interstate 80 in Tooele in another example from last year. According to authorities, a man set fire to Dixie to get even with her owner, with whom he had a previous connection.
Dixie struggled for several days, according to Heatley, before being euthanized.
Several survivors of domestic violence spoke out on Friday, describing how their abusers attempted to control them by using their love for their dogs. A couple also stated that preserving ownership of their pet was an important part of their recovery.
One woman cried as she said, I honestly can't help but question if I would've even been alive if I hadn't had this puppy because she gave me meaning and a want to live.
She also stated that if she had the options afforded by the bill Romero, D-Salt Lake City, has introduced, she would have fled her abuser sooner.
Thirty-five other states already have pet protections, and members of the committee believe it's past time for Utah to follow suit.
The bill passed the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee overwhelmingly, and it now goes to the House floor for a vote.