Florida bills protect pets of domestic violence, victim’s pet pivotal helping her escape

Reporter: Anika Henanger Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Pet dog with owner, who escaped domestic violence. Credit: WINK News.

A dog is credited with saving a woman and her child from an abusive home in Southwest Florida. Stories like this are reasons why Florida lawmakers want to pass new protections for pets into law.

Two new bills are being considered in the state to protect pets in abusive relationships.

We spoke to a woman whose pet helped her escape an unhealthy situation she was living in. She asked to remain anonymous, and her face is not shown during our on-camera interview with her. But you don’t need to see her face to see her incredible love for her dog.

“She feels like protection and comfort and being able to feel safe with her,” the woman told WINK News.

This woman, her child and her dog almost didn’t make it to safety at the Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Collier County.

“I probably wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t able to bring her with me,” the woman said. “So being able to bring her was probably the biggest factor of coming here.”

Mother and child made the decision to leave a violent home because they could bring their beloved family pet with them.

“Reminds me of love and peace and kindness,” she said.

Studies show 40% of women delay leaving an abusive relationship because they’re terrified of what might happen to their pets.

“I wouldn’t have came and probably would have had to go back,” the woman said.

A growing number of Florida lawmakers don’t want to see that happen.

Bills going through the Florida House and Florida Senate would allow judges to include pets in domestic violence restraining orders.

“We’ve had anything from ferrets, bunny rabbits , fish, you name it,” said Linda Oberhaus, the CEO for the shelter in Collier County.

Oberhaus believes the bills will keep animals safe too.

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is an advocacy group that supports the two bills in the state. For more information, visit the ASPCA website.

Studied show abusers can use a victim’s love for a pet as a source of control. Domestic violence victims who make it to shelters report their abusers threaten to injure or kill family pets. And, most of the time, that threat is carried out in front of the victim.

“I could see that we rescued her, but she actually rescued us,” said the victim who spoke to us.

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