Domestic Violence and Animals

Anyone with a pet is familiar with the strong emotional ties we can have to household pets. We consider them family. Unfortunately, like children, sometimes household pets become pawns in a game of power and control that abusers use to threaten victims.

Prior to 2007, Illinois, and most other states, treated animals like property rather than a companion or family member. An animal could not be protected from abuse under an Order of Protection. However, today, in 45 states, including Illinois, the law recognizes that there sometimes is stark correlation between animal abuse and family violence. As a remedy, a victim can ask that the animal is protected under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act.

Pursuant to 750 ILCS 60/214, “the Court may grant a petitioner exclusive care, custody, or control of any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by either the petitioner or the respondent or a minor child residing in the residence or household of either the petitioner or the respondent and order the respondent to stay away from the animal and forbid the respondent from taking, transferring, encumbering, concealing, harming, or otherwise disposing of the animal.”

Alleged abuse does not need to be directed against the animal specifically in order to obtain its protection. The Court may be inclined to grant exclusive care, custody, and control based on the abuser’s general propensity for violence. If you are seeking an Order of Protection for yourself and/or children, please be sure to disclose all pets you think may be at risk.

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