Bill would protect pets of domestic abuse victims

Advocates for animals caught up in the cycle of domestic abuse are hopeful Gov. Scott Walker will sign Senate Bill 97, designed to apply restraining orders not only to victims, but their pets.

The bill passed with bipartisan support. Wisconsin would be the 30th state to pass such a measure.

Megan Senatori, a Madison attorney who founded Sheltering Animals of Abuse Victims (SAAV) and lobbied for the bill at the Capitol, said domestic violence commonly affects pets, something she said is surprising to many.

“Forty-eight percent of domestic abuse victims coming into shelters reported that they did not seek safety sooner because they were concerned for the safety and well-being of their pets,” Senatori said. “On top of it, 71 percent of victims coming into shelters report that a batterer had targeted their pet in some fashion.”

SAAV provides a temporary, confidential shelter for pets caught up in domestic abuse situations.

Tony Gibart, public policy director for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, said pets are one reason abuse victims stay in violent relationships.

“It’s one of the concerns they have when they’re contemplating leaving,” Gibart said. “This is something survivors have been asking for for a long time.”

Senatori said animal abuse is at the core of domestic violence.

“Domestic abuse is about power and control, so the batterer has decided that targeting the animal is a way to control the human being in the relationship,” Senatori said.

In addition to SAAV, Madison’s Domestic Abuse Intervention Services has a new shelter with an emergency kennel site.

Senatori said the bill is important because not all parts of Wisconsin have the kinds of resources Dane County has.