New bill allows individuals to petition court to protect animals in abuse situations

Jan 29, 2022, 6:56 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 3:32 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill aimed to give protection to pets in domestic violence homes caught momentum at the Utah State Capitol Friday.

House Bill 175 allows individuals to petition the court to include domestic animals on protective orders — no matter if the pet is owned by the victim or by the abuser.

It passed the Utah House of Representatives 69 to 2.

Reps. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield, and Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, were the only two “no” votes in the House.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City of District 26, 71% of women at domestic violence shelters say their abusers hurt or even killed their pets.

“If a domestic violence survivor is trying to get out of a vulnerable situation, they often feel compelled to stay because they are afraid of what is going to happen to their pet,” Romero said.

Christina Grossnickle, who owns three dogs, spoke to the House Committee earlier this week.

“These dogs are the last things my daughter had to say we are okay, we are family, and this is home,” Grossnickle said. “My husband and I were separated. Things were terrible, and he kept trying to take my dogs.”

During a frightening time in Grossnickle’s life, she notes how valuable policy like H.B. 175 could have been for her.

“What are we waiting for? More pets to die?  More people to die because they are stuck in this situation where they can’t bear the thought of leaving their pet?” Grossnickle said.

Thirty-five states have pet protection laws.

“There are resources for those people who are leaving a domestic violence situation. If they are going into a shelter and their pets are not allowed, there are nonprofits who will house those pets,” Romero said.

According to local domestic violence shelter coordinators, 25% of survivors return to their abusers because their abuser threatens them with their pet.

H.B. 175 will be discussed in a Senate Committee meeting, where a date will be set for state senators to vote on the bill.

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New bill allows individuals to petition court to protect animals in abuse situations