Target: New Hampshire Representative Leigh Webb
Goal: Pass a law in New Hampshire that will give Judges the right to grant custody of pets and protection in cases of domestic violence
A new bill has been proposed in New Hampshire that would not only allow Judges to grant custody of pets, but also include them in restraining orders in cases of domestic violence. The bill has been met with considerable disapproval, but if passed, would be the first bill of its kind and bring the United States one step closer to viewing animals as family and not property.
Rep. Leigh Webb sponsored House Bill 1410, which aims to allow judges to consider animal cruelty as evidence of domestic abuse. “It’s not an animal rights issue; it’s a human issue,” Webb said. “It’s about the victims of domestic abuse.” The measure has already passed through the House and is currently with the Senate Judiciary Committee. The future of the bill is still up in the air, however. A few of Webb’s fellow Representatives are still fighting the measure. Representative Kyle Tasker claims that the law could play into the hands of the abuser who could claim the other party was hurting the pet. “It’s already a he-said-she-said situation,” he said. “If it comes down to who’s the better liar, does that really help anyone?”
The evidence contradicts Tasker’s stance. Franklin, NH Police Chief David Goldstein urged Webb to sponsor the bill to help deal with the complicated cases they receive and police “another arrow in the quiver.” Amanda Grady Sexton, public policy director for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, argued against Tasker, saying, “We need to rely on our judges, who do receive training about how to determine who the primary aggressor is,” she said. “That’s happening now with children.” Sexton also asked New Hampshire’s 14 crisis centers to share their experiences in support of House Bill 1410. The stories flooded in. “It was rabbits, dogs, cats, horses: maiming them, killing them. It was horrifying stuff,” she said.
Animal cruelty is a significant part of domestic violence and needs to be addressed within the legal system. Abusers in domestic violence and sexual abuse cases often threaten pets as a way of preventing victims from seeking help. Studies have shown that more than 70 percent of victims would not leave an abusive household if their pets could not leave with them. Allowing judges to grant custody of pets to victims of domestic abuse would not only save the lives of animals, but could also save the lives of humans as well.
Please sign the petition below to support House Bill 1410 and protect the lives of both humans and animals from domestic violence in New Hampshire.
Dear Representative Webb,
You recently sponsored House Bill 1410, which intends to allow judges to grant custody of animals in cases of domestic and sexual abuse. It has been well documented that animal cruelty plays a significant role in these crimes. Animals are often harmed or threatened to keep victims from seeking help, and victims will often endure more abuse because they refuse to leave the pet behind.
Thank you so much for your commitment to protecting both human and animal lives. I strongly support this bill and hope that other states will soon consider adopting similar laws so that all members of a family will be protected from these horrendous crimes.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Alberto Abouganem Stephens via Flickr