New Resource to Enable Washington Metropolitan Area Attorneys to Better Assist Pet-Owning Domestic Violence Survivors

New Resource to Enable Washington Metropolitan Area Attorneys to Better Assist 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 the District of Columbia, Maryland & Virginia: A Manual for Domestic Violence Attorneys & Advocates Helping Survivors Obtain Protection Orders.” Compiled by Washington-based law firm Hogan Lovells, the manual is designed to enable attorneys and advocates in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to better assist pet-owning domestic violence survivors.

“This manual will be an essential addition to the resources we currently offer on animals and family violence,” said Cathy Liss, AWI president. “It is imperative that attorneys and advocates are made aware of concerns that domestic violence survivors may have about their pets, how those concerns affect their decisions, and most of all, how to help them use the protection order process to cover their companion animals.”

The resource addresses why pets should be covered under protection orders in cases of domestic violence, noting abusers harm pets and service animals just as they physically harm their 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 often refuse to leave violent situations or relationships for fear of what will happen to their pets or do not volunteer that they have a pet—under the false assumption that there are no resources available to care for these animals. The manual walks attorneys and advocates through the process of effectively assessing and representing domestic violence survivors in these types of situations.

The text discusses the general legal landscape surrounding the inclusion of pets in civil protection orders, gives specific details about the laws in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, and provides links to forms and outside resources. These three jurisdictions are among 29 (27 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico) that, as of November 2014, specifically allow companion animals to be included in protection orders.

“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 the creation of this manual, which covers every aspect of this issue concisely but thoroughly, our mission is to simplify the inclusion of pets in protection orders for attorneys and advocates, allowing survivors to take control of their lives and escape abuse with their pets.”

Using this manual as a prototype, AWI plans to produce a similar resource for every state, so as to make this critical information available to attorneys and advocates nationwide.

The manual is available for public access at


Media Contact:
Amey Owen,, AWI, (202) 446-2128

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