Pennsylvania lawmakers voted to expand Protection From Abuse Orders (PFAs) to apply to animals and house pets. Specifically, if enacted, the law will give Pennsylvania judges the authority to order a PFA defendant to refrain from harming or killing a domestic violence victim's pets.
Animal welfare organizations, members of the law enforcement community, and domestic violence organizations support the legislation and say that it will give additional protection and peace of mind to Pennsylvania domestic abuse victims.
What Is a PFA and What Does It Do?
In Pennsylvania, a PFA is a court order that protects someone from domestic abuse. In the order, a judge sets limits on the abuser's behavior depending on the circumstances of the case. Judges have broad discretion when issuing PFAs to provide relief to abuse victims.
For example, a judge can order an abuser to stay away from the victim and stay away from the victim's home, school, and place of employment; evict the abuser from the home; order the abuser to stop harassing the victim or the victim's family; and order the defendant not to contact the victim via phone call, text, or on social media.
Penalties for violating a PFA are severe and can include fines and even jail time.
New Law Will Allow Judges to Protect Pets in PFAs
The current law in Pennsylvania does not explicitly give judges the ability to order a PFA defendant to refrain from abusing their victim's pets. According to the authors of the legislation, research shows that domestic abusers often target victims' pets and use them as leverage in domestic abuse situations.
For example, abusers will sometimes harm or kill victims' pets – or threaten to do so – as part of their pattern of abuse, in order to control their victims, or to get back at their victims for obtaining a PFA against them.
Domestic violence and animal welfare advocates say that often, domestic abuse victims will stay in abusive situations because they are afraid for their pets' well-being.
The new law will give judges the power to order a PFA defendant not to harm or threaten to harm their victim's pets. Advocates say that the new law will make it easier for domestic abuse victims to leave their abusive situations.
The Lento Law Firm Can Help Domestic Violence Victims Protect Themselves and Their Pets
Domestic violence is a serious issue that can mean life or death for victims and their pets. It can be difficult to know what to do under the stress of the situation and what the best course of action is under your particular circumstances.
The Lento Law Firm's experienced Criminal Defense Team has years of experience representing clients in all matters regarding PFAs in Pennsylvania. If you are a victim of domestic violence and are looking to obtain a PFA to protect yourself and your beloved pets, or if you have been served a PFA that prevents you from seeing your pet and don't know what to do, we can help. We will assess your case and work hard to create a strategy that will achieve the best possible outcome for you. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form.