A South Shore pup named Panzer has become the first four-legged friend to find haven under a new law that allows animals to be included in domestic-violence restraining orders.
The Plymouth District Court implemented the law after a Marshfield woman sought a restraining order against her allegedly abusive boyfriend.
The law, part of a larger bill called, “An Act Further Regulating Animal Control,” was signed in August by Governor Deval Patrick and outlines safe pet ownership procedures.
Prior to the law, a judge could rule that an abuser stay away only from adults and children. Now, the abuser can also be kept away from pets.
The furry six-year-old Labrador mix was removed from the home and placed in foster care at an undisclosed location. The woman and child involved in the case have been placed in a domestic-violence shelter.
Marshfield Animal Control Officer Demi Goldman, who worked with the MSPCA to help pass the bill, spearheaded the effort to include Panzer the dog in the domestic-violence case. Only a month after the law was enacted, Panzer was evaluated by a veterinarian and removed from the home.
“What’s amazing is that this first one happened to happen down here,” said Goldman. “To me it couldn’t happen in a better place than Plymouth County, because the court and the South Shore Women’s Resource Center have been so involved in backing this law.”
“The original hope is that [the woman] finds a place to live with her child, and that she can come back to get the dog,” said Goldman, who frequently updates the family on the dog’s well being.
“She knows the dog is safe,” said Goldman. “It’s just one less thing she needs to worry about.”
The MSPCA is creating public awareness programs about the new law, and will be tracking how often the law is used in domestic-violence cases, said Kara Holmquist, director of advocacy for the organization.
"It’s not going to solve every case, but it’s one more tool that victims have available to them to help provide a solution for both their safety and the animal's," said Holmquist.
Goldman said that in many cases, victims are less likely to leave a domestic-violence situation when a pet is involved, for fear they may lose their pet.
“Now that there’s an outlet and a way to protect the pet, they can now leave their abusive relationships and move on,” she said.