WEST CHESTER (August 25) – State Senator Andy Dinniman recently discussed the connection between domestic violence and violence against pets and animals at the 13th Annual Animal Law Conference sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, Pennsylvania Bar Institute and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

“Study after study has demonstrated the direct link between violence against animals and violence against people,” Dinniman said. “We know that those who harm animals are likely to harm people. It’s time that we tighten our laws and raise the penalties to both protect our pets and protect our families.”

Senator Dinniman with Rachel Haynes Pinsker (left) of the the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Kristin Tullo (right), Pennsylvania State Director of the Humane Society of the United States.

Senator Dinniman with Rachel Haynes Pinsker (left) of the the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Kristin Tullo (right), Pennsylvania State Director for the Humane Society of the United States.

According to a Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research and Education Promoting Animal Welfare (FIREPAW) study, up to 48% of domestic violence victims have delayed leaving a dangerous situation because they fear for their pet’s safety.  Figures provided by the Humane Society of the United States show that those fears are not unfounded, reporting that approximately one million animals are killed or abused in connection to domestic violence each year.

Dinniman participated in a presentation at the conference titled “The Connection between Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse,” with Rachel Haynes Pinsker, Legal Services Manager for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Pinsker, who has provided 15 years of legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, said that in her experience, abusers often lash out at companion animals of their victims as a way to gain more control.

“The more isolated a domestic violence victim becomes, the more attached they are to their pet.  Often, an abuser becomes jealous of this attachment and punishes the animal as another form of abuse toward their victim,” Pinsker said.

Dinniman has introduced Senate Bill 594, the Pet Protection from Domestic Abuse Act, legislation that calls for strengthening Pennsylvania’s Animal Cruelty Law to increase the penalty when animal abuse happens in a domestic-violence situation. This often occurs when an estranged spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend (who is under a protection from abuse order from a former partner) will get back at that individual by hurting or killing their pet in order to inflict emotional harm.

Senate Bill 594 unanimously passed the Senate and is now on final consideration in the House.

Dinniman, a champion among animal rights advocates for his leadership in passing “Daniel’s Law,” (Act 182 of 2012) which ended pet animal gas chambers in Pennsylvania, said he would continue to utilize the latest research in guiding legislative efforts in Harrisburg.

“This research reaffirms what many pet owners or animal lovers already know – there is a direct correlation between how we treat animals and each other,” Dinniman said. “Furthermore, we are only at the cusp of understanding the relationship between animals and humans.”

Dinniman also cited his work, along with a group of bipartisan legislators, to put forth a package of pet protection bills. They are as follows:

  • Senate Bill 373, sponsored by Senator Alloway, sets limits for tethering dogs in relation to the length, safety, and fit of the tether, as well as the availability of food, water, shade, and suitable temperature.  This legislation has passed the Senate and is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.
  • Senate Bill 573, sponsored by Senator McIlhinney, helps ensure that all Dog Law fines and penalties go to supporting the operations of the Office of Dog Law Enforcement, rather than being diverted to other areas. This legislation is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • Senate Bill 977, sponsored by Senator Teplitz, would prohibit the confinement of a dog or cat in an unattended motor vehicle during extreme heat or cold. It also gives police and public safety officers the authority to remove pets from such vehicles. This legislation is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • Senate Bill 294, sponsored by Senator Eichelberger, also known as “Cordelia’s Law,” was formed in conjunction with the Farm Bureau to expand penalties for the abandonment and mistreatment of horses. It adds horses to the anti-cruelty statute and adds starvation to the list of abuses. This legislation unanimously passed the Senate and is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.

Hundreds of residents and their dogs came out for the rally to support Daniel’s Law in 2011.

At the conference, Dinniman called for the public to rally together in a grassroots community effort in support of these bills, citing the past success of “Daniel’s Law.”

“It is time for Pennsylvania to move forward with common sense laws to protect animals.  There are no articulated objections to these laws except for political partisanship and gridlock,” Dinniman said. “The way to make change in government is to make your voice heard and demand it. I urge pet owners and animal lovers to contact their state representatives and senators in support of these bills.”

At the conference, questions were also raised about the ability of domestic violence shelters and organizations to provide shelter to victims’ pets. Dinniman said he would reach out to local shelters and domestic violence organizations to work together to help ensure that victims’ pets could be provided with temporary shelter or foster care rather than be left to potentially suffer the consequences.

“Bringing the right people together within a community is the best way to work towards a solution and get things done,” Dinniman said. “We succeeded in following this model with Daniel’s Law and we did it again with Henry’s Helping Paws Fund, which delivers pet food and pet care items free of charge to homebound senior citizens who lack the financial resources to care for their animal companions.”

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