Bebe, 5, was included in a protection order that Derek Lopez, 27, obtained against Fredrick Fontanez, 20. Bebe is a 14 pound Bichon Frise (a dog). This is thought to be the first case in New York where a pet was included in a restraining order. It is the result of a new law passed which allows pets to be included in a protection order.
On July 20, it is alleged that Lopez left the dog in the apartment with Fontanez. While away Lopez and Fontanez had a heated argument on the phone. A neighbor heard the dog “yelping and crying” soon after.
When Lopez returned to the home, he found Bebe with reddened, swollen back, eye, and thigh. He took the dog to the vet and ASPCA was notified. An ASPCA officer has charged Fontanez with one count of animal cruelty.
It is not known if Derek Lopez was injured in the incident.
It has long been known that pets sometimes had a role domestic violence situations. Sometimes used as scapegoats by the abuser, sometimes threatened as a means of control over the partner (I will hurt the animal if you don’t), sometimes as a means of intimidation (after beating the animal, saying such things as ‘and I will do the same thing to you’).
People get attached to their pets. I had experience working in some floods once, and found that people would sometimes refuse to leave a threatened area or refuse to go to a shelter if they could not take their pets. A pet dying can affect some people just as much as the death of some person close to them. So pets often are an effective means of control and intimidation. Because of that, some states are now enacting various laws to provide protection for pets in homes where domestic violence is a factor.
This link from The Humane Society of the United States has information on how and why a pet may be involved in domestic violence situations. And there are several ideas on how to include the pets in the family’s safety plan.