We all know how much pets can mean to their owners and caretakers. Pets can seem like another member of the family. Unfortunately, when a household harbors domestic violence, pets can become both the victims and the pawns controlling the human victims of domestic violence. See this animal-welfare article citing the high incidence of violence against household pets and how domestic abusers frequently manipulate human victims through threats involving the victim's pet. Pets can become embroiled in emotional disputes between their owners and caretakers, just as everything else in the household can become a point of hot contention in a domestic dispute. Don't be too surprised if a pet somehow becomes the center of your domestic dispute.
Legal Protections Involving Pets
The above animal-welfare article depicts the thirty-six states that specifically provide for including pets in a protective order. Those laws make good sense. If a domestic abuser might manipulate the victim by threatening to harm or remove the victim's beloved pet, then a protective order should be able to restrain the abuser against that manipulation, including prohibiting harming or removing the pet. Protective orders addressing pets protect human victims. They also protect the involved pets. Animal-rights organizations properly concern themselves with the health, safety, security, and welfare of the animals themselves, whether dogs, cats, birds, or other pets. Human welfare is typically a court's first and primary concern. But protecting personal property is also a common court concern. And the most precious personal property in some households is a pet.
Pennsylvania Lacks Specific Protection
But that's not how Pennsylvania lawmakers have seen it, at least to this date. Pennsylvania is not among the thirty-six states specifically providing for including pets in a protective order. Pennsylvania's Protection-from-Abuse (PFA) Act does not address protecting pets. Don't expect your Pennsylvania PFA order to automatically restrain the defendant or otherwise provide for the control, removal, or protection of a household pet. New York, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia all specifically provide for including pets in protective orders. In the Northeast, only Pennsylvania and Delaware do not include specific protection for pets.
Addressing Pennsylvania PFA Orders
Pennsylvania's omission of pets from its protective order provisions doesn't mean that PFA litigants are without legal means of addressing the ownership, management, and control of pets. Whether you are the plaintiff seeking a Pennsylvania PFA order or the defendant opposing a PFA request, if you have a pet needing your care, control, and protection, you should share that need with your retained PFA attorney. You should have a skilled and experienced Pennsylvania PFA attorney representing you in your PFA proceeding to help shape your needed relief. Pennsylvania PFA attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are available for your aggressive and effective representation now, including to help you access, feed, exercise, care for, or otherwise manage your household pets. Call 888-535-3686 or go online now.