A bill pending in the S.C. General Assembly would allow judges to issue emergency protective orders for pets who live in violent homes.
S.C. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, said the bill is not a joke.
It is a well-documented fact that people who abuse women and children also abuse family pets. They use their victims’ love for the pet as a way to manipulate them, Cobb-Hunter said.
“There’s an attachment to pets and a love for pets that an abuser understands,” she said.
The bill, House 3361, would allow judges to include pets in an emergency order sought by someone who is trying to escape a violent relationship. It also would allow people to receive temporary custody of pets.
A similar bill was approved last year by the House, but the legislative session ended before the Senate could vote on it. Cobb-Hunter said she believes the issue is important enough to try again.
Kim Kelly, South Carolina state director for the Humane Society of the United States, told a House judiciary subcommittee that there was an undeniable connection between animal abuse and human abuse.
More than 80 percent of women who enter domestic violence shelters report animal abuse in their homes, Kelly said.
Women often tell advocates that they do not want to leave behind animals when they are trying to escape a violent relationship, she said.
“A victim of abuse should not have to choose between her own safety and her pet,” Kelly said.