Animal lovers descended on Trenton today to lobby New Jersey lawmakers for legislation to protect pets - and people.
Among the bill under consideration is S540, which would authorize courts to include animals in domestic violence restraining orders. Seventeen states - Pennsylvania is not among them - have laws protecting pets in domestic violence cases because of the high numbers of instances where spouses commit acts of violence against pets, often as retribution or as a precursor to spousal abuse.
“Abusers target family pets to ensure submission,” said Kathleen Schatzmann, New Jersey state director for The HSUS. “Unless courts include pets in domestic violence orders of protection, many people feel they have no alternative but to remain in violent households. Including pets in domestic violence restraining orders is a critical step toward combating the cycle of interpersonal violence.”
Citizen advocates will also be asking legislators to support S539, which would establish crimes of dog fighting and designate as a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) violation the act of serving as a leader of a dog fighting network.
The lobby day was sponsored the Humane Society of the United States, the America Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Animal Welfare Institute.
The event featured several speakers, including Richard Yocum, New Jersey SPCA president, who discussed his experience investigating domestic violence cases; Anne Ciemnecki, president of Seer Farms who detailed the organization’s involvement in caring for animals impacted by domestic violence; and a survivor of domestic violence who shared her personal experience growing up in a violent household where members of her family were abused, including the family’s pets.
Last year, state legislatures across the country passed nearly 100 new laws to protect animals.