Vermont could follow Maine in offering pet protection orders


MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – A Senate committee has passed a bill that would allow judges to include pets in protection orders for people leaving abusive relationships.

The initiative is included in a larger bill that would allow victims to seek protection from stalking.

If passed, Vermont would become one of two states to offer court protection to pets.

“There is substantial evidence that people in divorce use pets as leverage,” said Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex/Orleans, who introduced the measure. “It is a serious issue. Pets are often a weapon of choice in exerting dominance or control over loved ones.”

Maine passed a comparable bill this year.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously passed the bill.

Violators would face up to three years in prison and $25,000 in fines. Illuzzi cited an article in the magazine “Society and Animals” that said about 86 percent of women at domestic abuse shelters said their abuser had also harmed their pets.

“Animals have been abused by perpetrators to frighten their partners, as a threat of potential interpersonal attack and as a form of retaliation or punishment,” the article said.

The Human Society of the United States endorses the measure and said violence and animal cruelty are linked.

The Humane Society has said “a history of animal abuse was found in 25 percent of aggressive male criminals, 30 percent of convicted child molesters, 36 percent of those who assaulted women and 46 percent of those convicted of sexual homicide.”

The overall law would allow victims to be protected from stalking.

The House approved the bill in February. The Senate is expected to take it up possibly next week.