AWI Unveils Resource for Colorado Attorneys Assisting Pet-Owning Domestic Violence Survivors

AWI Unveils Resource for Colorado Attorneys Assisting Pet-Owning Domestic Violence Survivors - Photo by Greg HirsonWashington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) announced today its new publication entitled Representing Domestic Violence Survivors with Pets in Colorado: A Manual for Domestic Violence Attorneys & Advocates Helping Survivors Obtain Protection Orders. Compiled by attorneys working with AWI staff, the manual is designed to enable Colorado lawyers and advocates to better assist domestic violence survivors who seek additional safety for their pets.

“With this manual, we hope to increase awareness about the options domestic violence survivors have for their companion animals,” said Cathy Liss, AWI president. “Colorado provides important protections for pet-owning domestic violence survivors, and this publication provides advocates and attorneys with concise but comprehensive guidance on how to use those provisions to benefit their clients.”

Abusers often physically harm pets and service animals just as they do partners and children. One survey found that 71 percent of pet-owning domestic violence victims reported that their abusers had threatened, injured, or killed their pets. Victims, in fact, often refuse to leave violent relationships for fear of what will happen to their pets. When seeking services, they may not even volunteer that they have pets—under the false assumption that there are no resources available to care for them. The manual walks attorneys and advocates through the process of effectively assessing situations and representing domestic violence survivors who have pets.

The manual summarizes legal issues surrounding the inclusion of pets in civil protection orders, gives specific details about the laws in Colorado, and provides links to relevant forms and outside resources. Colorado is one of 29 US jurisdictions (27 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico) that, as of December 2014, specifically allow companion animals to be included in protection orders. Colorado is also one of at least seven states, in addition to the District of Columbia, that has a “stay away and/or pet custody” statutory provision, which specifically authorizes the court to restrain an abuser from harming an animal.

“Because domestic violence intake interviews typically do not involve questions about the presence of pets, pets are still rarely included in petitions and final orders,” said Nancy Blaney, AWI senior policy advisor. “With this resource, we simplify the process of making sure pets are included in protection orders for attorneys and advocates, allowing survivors to take control of their lives and escape abuse along with their beloved pets.”

The manual is available for public access at http://awionline.org/sites/default/files/uploads/documents/AWI-CA-CO-PPO-Manual-122014.pdf.

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Media Contact:
Amey Owen, amey@awionline.org, AWI, (202) 446-2128

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