Panzer, a six-year-old Labrador mix, is in an undisclosed place, away from an allegedly abusive owner, after a Marshfield woman sought a restraining order against her boyfriend in Plymouth District Court earlier this year.
According to Marshfield Animal Control Officer Demi Goldman, a Plymouth County Judge included Panzer in the order because of a law recently passed by Governor Deval Patrick that allows a judge to award the possession of an animal to the victim and to “prohibit the accused from abusing, threatening or taking a pet.”
The law was passed as part of a larger bill that dealt with animal control and provisions called “An Act Further Regulating Animal Control.” It was signed by Patrick in August.
Prior to it being passed, a judge could only demand that a suspect stay away from both the victim and their child.
A host of advocacy groups, including Goldman and members of MSPCA-Angell, a national non-profit that fights for animal protection, championed the bill.
Kara Holmquist, Director of Advocacy for the MSPCA, who worked tirelessly on the overall bill, said she was glad to see the new law in action.
“In an ideal world we wouldn’t need it,” she said. “But it’s good that judges are becoming aware of it.”
Holmquist said in abusive relationships, like the one the Marshfield woman was in, people often use animals as a tool to exercise power.
“Leaving a pet behind is not an option,” she said.
According to Goldman, research has shown that more than 70-percent of abused women report that their batterers threatened to hurt or kill their pets.
That same research showed close to 50-percent of victims delayed leaving an abusive situation for fear of what would happen to their pet.
With the new law in place, however, it keeps those pets safe and their owners at ease.
“It’s about animals and their safety and removing the barrier so people can feel the pet is protected in a situation,” said Holmquist.
When the restraining order was first approved in September, just weeks after Patrick signed the bill, Panzer, the South Shore pup, was taken to a local veterinarian to be checked and then was “swiftly placed into a foster home, at an undisclosed location,” said Goldman.
In November, the restraining order was renewed and granted by the Plymouth Judge.
Panzer is now in a foster home while the victim and her 2-year-old son stay at an out-of-state domestic violence shelter.
“It is hoped that [the judge’s] order for the inclusion of Panzer in [this] Restraining Order has set a precedent and that moving forward we will see a lot more of these Abuse Protection Orders,” Goldman said in a statement sent to BostInno.