Marshfield dog is first in state to win domestic violence protection order
By Chris Burrell
Nov 28, 2012
MARSHFIELD — A 6-year-old Labrador mix has become the first animal in the state to win protection from a new state law that allows endangered pets to be included in domestic violence restraining orders.
The dog, owned by a 38-year-old Marshfield woman who sought a restraining order in Plymouth District Court against her boyfriend, is now in an undisclosed shelter, said Deni Michele Goldman, Marshfield’s animal control officer.
“This new law allows a judge to award the possession of an animal to the victim and to prohibit the accused from abusing, threatening or taking the pet,” said Goldman, who is also the spokeswoman for the Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts.
“This was really good timing.”
The Marshfield woman, who has a 2-year-old boy, had filed for a restraining order in September just weeks after Gov. Deval Patrick signed an animal protection bill that created a safety net for pets caught in domestic violence situations, instituted a statewide spay and neuter program and required training for animal control officers.
A week before Thanksgiving, Plymouth Judge James Mennogranted the woman’s Labrador mix dog named Panzer the protection of a restraining order from a violent ex-boyfriend.
“(She) feared that her boyfriend might try to take the dog, and she stated that he had already kicked and dragged the dog in the past,” Goldman said.
Panzer is now living with a foster family while the woman and her son are staying in a domestic violence shelter out-of-state.
“I give her updates (about Panzer) by phone,” said Goldman. “And once she gets settled into a safe place, she will have her dog again.”
Goldman said that that more than 70 percent of abused women report that their batterers have threatened to hurt or kill their pets and have tried to used such threats to coerce battered women into staying or refraining from calling police.
The Marshfield mother sought help from domestic violence advocates at the South Shore Women’s Resource Center, who worked with Goldman once they were alerted to the fact that the woman was also concerned about the safety of her dog.
Goldman pointed to a 2009 case in Hull to illustrate the serious problem of pets trapped in domestic violence circumstances.
Hull police working with Goldman and the Animal Rescue League of Boston helped convict a Hull man of animal cruelty after he killed his girlfriend’s 8-week-old puppy. The man was sentenced to one-year jail term.