Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2009


Domestic violence is on the rise, and pets are increasingly becoming the victims of marital disputes. There is a demonstrated link between acts and offenses of domestic violence and animal abuse. Domestic abusers often do not think twice about beating or otherwise harming pets that have bonded with the other spouse in order to control, coerce, intimidate, or cause emotional harm to that spouse.

There is an emerging awareness that animals are more than just property. Several states have recognized, through the enactment of legislation fortifying their family law systems, that animals play an integral role in the lives of their human counterparts. Legislatures throughout the country have granted local courts the power to issue protective orders that account for the unique circumstances that arise when victims of domestic abuse have companion animals.

Despite attempts from the Animal Law Section of the Maryland State Bar Association and its fellow sponsors in the Maryland State Senate and the House of Delegates, similar legislation has yet to take root in Maryland. Two critical components are needed in order to advocate and move this issue forward in Maryland: The realization that animals are a mainstream issue, and political will.

This article reviews the literature that demonstrates the linkages between animals and domestic violence. In conducting this review, the authors discuss media reports and published works on the subject. The authors also provide an overview of current legislation enacted in other jurisdictions across the United States. Additionally, a review of bills recently introduced in the Maryland General Assembly from 2007 to 2009 is provided. Finally, the authors put forth arguments in support of the enactment of legislation authorizing the inclusion of pets and service animals in Maryland protective orders.

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