Representing Domestic Violence Survivors with Pets in Michigan

A Manual for Domestic Violence Attorneys & Advocates Helping Survivors Obtain Protection Orders

This manual is intended to serve as an educational tool 1 for attorneys and advocates working with pet-owning domestic violence survivors in Michigan. We hope that this step-by-step approach simplifies the inclusion of pets in protection orders, allowing survivors to take control of their lives and escape abuse along with their pets. The Animal Welfare Institute wishes to thank and acknowledge Hogan Lovells US LLP–and in particular Sarah Cummings and Blair Warner–and Sejal Sanghvi, JD, and Natasha Cobb, JD Candidate, for their contributions to the drafting of this manual. Edited by Dave Tilford, AWI.

Advocates and attorneys play a crucial role in ensuring that the individual seeking a protection order (petitioner) understands and exercises their rights to include their pets in protection orders. There are four crucial steps to this process:

  1. As early as possible, ask the petitioner about any pets, service animals, therapy animals, or any other animals who may live in the home.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the state’s protection order laws. In Michigan, the laws pertaining to domestic relationship personal protection orders (PPOs) are found in MCL § 600.2950.
  3. If there has been animal abuse or a threat of animal abuse, gather evidence of this to present at the hearing.
  4. Assist the petitioner in understanding what relief is available to protect the animal, and ensure the petitioner’s requested relief is included in any temporary or extended order.

Ask About Pets

The first step is to ask about the presence of pets or other animals in the home during the initial conversation.

Sample Questions:

  • Does an animal—a pet, service animal, or support animal—live in your home?
  • Has your abuser ever harmed your pet or threatened to harm your pet?
  • How did the animal abuse or threat affect you?
  • Where is your pet right now?
  • Is your pet safe?
  • Do you want to ask that the court grant you custody of your pet?
  • Do you want to ask that the court order your abuser to stay away from your pet?
  • Do you have anything that might help us prove that the abuser has threatened or hurt the animal, e.g., veterinary bills or records, photographs or eyewitnesses?

It is common for petitioners with pets not to volunteer that they have a pet. They may assume there are no resources or protections for their pets and therefore believe it is pointless to raise the issue. In addition, under the stress of the circumstances they may forget to mention pet concerns. It is important to recognize the overall significance of asking about pets; being able to present information about how the abuser has treated animals can be a valuable tool to illustrate the extent of the abuser’s controlling and violent behavior.

Knowing whether a pet is involved may help not only the pet but also other abused parties. Many petitioners may decide not to leave due to fear of leaving a pet behind, and addressing such concerns increases the likelihood that they will escape an abusive situation themselves.

Discuss Resources for Pets

Reassure the petitioner that you will work with them to develop a safety plan for them, their family, and their pet. Does the individual intend to stay with friends or family members, but cannot take their pet? Are they moving into temporary housing or a domestic violence shelter that does not accept pets?

Explain that there are safe havens for pets of domestic violence victims in many communities. Safe havens are sheltering services available in an area that assist individuals experiencing domestic violence with placing their companion animals out of harm's way so that they may seek safety for themselves.

Safe havens operate differently from community to community. Some rely on networks of foster care homes or are allowed to use the additional kennel space of a local humane society or veterinarian. In some cases, domestic violence shelters house victims and pets together, while some house only the pets on site. Depending on the local arrangement, family members may be able to visit their pets while they are in safekeeping. Confidentiality of the pet’s location is highly guarded in order to protect the pets and their family members.

Refer the petitioner to the Animal Welfare Institute’s Safe Havens Mapping Project. This is a directory, searchable by zip code, of sheltering services for domestic violence victims and their pets. About 12 percent of safe havens nationwide offer co-housing so that pets can stay with the human companions. Those that offer this are noted in the directory.

Advise the petitioner to do the following:

  • Keep on hand the phone number of the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic
  • Establish ownership of the pet by creating a paper trail (e.g., obtain a license, have veterinarian records put in the petitioner’s name)
  • Keep emergency provisions for the pet. Pack a bag for the pet that includes the following:
    • food
    • medicine
    • documents of ownership (receipts from adoption or purchase of pet, license to establish ownership, receipts for animal purchases)
    • health documents (veterinary or vaccination records)
    • leash
    • ID and rabies tag, if a dog or cat (these will also help establish ownership)
    • carrier
    • toys
    • bedding

Finally, in some circumstances where the animal and client are separated, such as one involving a visit to the emergency room, the advocate or attorney may need to ensure that the animal is safe. Following a domestic violence call, the animal may be taken into custody by animal control and need to be claimed and transferred to safety later.


Michigan Domestic Abuse Protection Order Laws

To secure a domestic relationship personal protection order in Michigan,2 the petitioner must show the court that an abuser (respondent) who has a domestic relationship with the petitioner is likely to assault, threaten, harass, or stalk the petitioner.3 For purposes of the statute, the respondent is considered to have a domestic relationship with the petitioner if that person is a “spouse, former spouse, individual with child in common, individual in dating relationship, or person residing or having resided in same household.”4 A domestic relationship PPO is valid for at least 182 days (approximately six months) but can be issued for a longer duration based on the discretion of the judge.5 The order can be extended without a hearing.6 A respondent who does not abide by the PPO can be arrested and subject to civil or criminal contempt.7

The Michigan Courts website provides links to all forms necessary to request a domestic relationship PPO. Forms and instructions are also available from the clerk’s office at the local courthouse, where the forms must be submitted. The four key documents to focus on are as follows:

  • Petition for domestic relationship PPO (CC 375) — This is the primary form the petitioner will use to request a PPO.
  • Domestic relationship PPO (CC 376) — This is the order itself—the form the judge will use to sign and issue the PPO. The petitioner will first need to fill out a short section at the top of the form.
  • Notice of Hearing on Petition for PPO (CC 381) — This form will be used only if there is a full hearing involving the petitioner and the respondent, as explained below. If the petitioner requests and is granted an “ex parte” PPO, based on a hearing without the respondent present, this form will not be used.
  • Instruction booklet — The information in the booklet is important. It details which forms are necessary under which circumstances and walks the petitioner through the steps necessary to process the forms at the courthouse. (For purposes of a domestic relationship PPO, references to forms CC 377 and CC 380 in the instructions can be ignored.) Please note: The descriptions in the booklet concerning which of the variously colored copies of the form go where may seem convoluted (and bureaucratic), but the clerk at the courthouse will be there to shepherd the petitioner through the process and make sure the forms go to the proper place. The booklet should serve merely as a guidepost to get started and to obtain a general idea of how things will proceed at the courthouse.

Requesting Protection of Pets

The place to request protection of pets as part of a PPO is on the petition form, CC 375. On the left hand side of the form are a series of circled letters. Beside each circled letter is a numbered statement, through which the petitioner asserts the facts of the case and the requests being made. Under the circled letter F, statement 5 reads “I ask the court to grant a personal protection order prohibiting the respondent from:”—followed by a series of check boxes. Go to 5 (j), where it reads:

  • intentionally causing me mental distress or exerting control over me by:
    • injuring, killing, torturing, or neglecting, or threatening to injure, kill, torture, or neglect any animal in which I have an ownership interest.
    • removing any animal from my possession in which I have an ownership interest.
    • retaining or obtaining possession of any animal in which I have an ownership interest.

The petitioner should check the boxes beside each of these statements.

Ex Parte Domestic Relationship Personal Protection Order

Depending on the circumstances, a PPO may be issued after either an ex parte hearing (with only the petitioner present) or a full hearing (with both petitioner and respondent present). Petitioners who desire an ex parte hearing must fill out and submit the petition form CC 375 (in full) and the court order form CC 376 (only the top part) together.

To request an ex parte order, the petitioner should check the box next to statement 7 under the circled letter H on CC 375. To qualify for such an order, the petitioner must show that immediate and irreversible injury, loss, or damage would result from the delay required to notify the respondent or show that the notice itself will cause harm to the petitioner before the PPO can be issued.8

Once an ex parte PPO is granted, the petitioner must serve the respondent with the CC 375 and CC 376 forms. See the instruction booklet for service of process information.

Full Hearing Domestic Relationship Personal Protection Order

In Michigan, unlike many other states, a full hearing involving both petitioner and respondent is not automatically scheduled after an ex parte order is granted. The PPO issued after an ex parte hearing may serve as the final order. However, a full hearing may be required under the following circumstances:

  • After an ex parte PPO is granted, the respondent may request a full hearing within 14 days of being served with the ex parte PPO.9
  • The petitioner does not request an ex parte hearing (does not check the box next to statement 7 requesting an ex parte hearing on CC 375), electing instead to proceed directly to a full hearing.10
  • The petitioner does request an ex parte hearing, but that request is denied by the judge after the judge reviews the petitioner’s CC 375 form.

If the petitioner does not request or is denied an ex parte hearing, the petitioner must complete an additional form: the notice of (full) hearing, CC 381.

In cases where the petitioner does not request an ex parte hearing, the petitioner would turn in only the petition form CC 375 initially, and forms CC 376 and CC 381 afterwards. Prior to the full hearing, the respondent must be served with forms CC 375 (the petition) and CC 381 (the notice of hearing). See the instruction booklet for details on the proper sequence in which to process these forms and serve the respondent.


Gathering Evidence for the Hearing

Fact-Gathering Questions to Ask the Petitioner

The court can issue a PPO if it determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that the respondent will likely commit one or more of the specific acts delineated in MCLA § 600.2950 (1) and (4)—including harm to the petitioner’s animals.11 Specifically, the court will examine whether the respondent has previously committed or threatened to commit any of the specific acts as well as other evidence provided by either party such as testimony and documents.12

Before completing the petition, an attorney or advocate should ask the petitioner the questions listed in the section titled “Ask About Pets” above. The answers to these questions will help the evidence-gathering process for the hearing and offer the court a more comprehensive scope of the circumstances.

If the respondent has threatened to harm either the petitioner’s animal or the respondent’s own animal, ask the petitioner what the respondent specifically said. The statement should be admissible under evidence rules as an admission by a party opponent. Ask where and when the statement occurred, and if someone else may have heard the threat (e.g., a neighbor, another occupant of the home, or someone else present). Have the petitioner describe the circumstances, including the topic of conversation and body language.

If the respondent physically hurt the pet, gather as many details as possible. In particular, find out if the animal needed veterinary care. If so, collect any evidence of the visit and consider if a subpoena of the animal hospital is appropriate. Either way, find out if any photos were taken and, if the abuse was recent, help the petitioner record photo evidence.

In addition to the fine details, be sure to capture the bigger picture of abuse. Have the petitioner describe the series of events that led up to the incident of abuse as well as any past instances of conflict. What does the petitioner believe motivated the abuse? How did the petitioner react to the abuse? How did the respondent act afterward? Did the abuse serve as an effective controlling behavior? For example, did the abuse prevent the petitioner from leaving the home or going somewhere?

Remember, it is extremely important that the court understands how the animal abuse fits into abusive behavior generally. Not everyone recognizes the value of pets, so being able to demonstrate with evidence that the respondent used the pet as a means to control the client is crucial to convincing the court of the role animal abuse plays in domestic violence.

Evidentiary Issues

There are several common pieces of evidence that you may want to introduce:

  • Statements made by the respondent
  • Veterinary records
  • Photographs of injuries
  • Evidence of prior animal abuse
  • Prior convictions for animal abuse
  • Testimony of a police officer
  • Testimony of a veterinarian

Michigan Rules of Evidence apply to all PPO hearings. Check these rules to develop a response to possible objections to the admissibility of any item of evidence.


Forms and Resources

Michigan Official Forms and Government-Sponsored Resources

  • Michigan Courts personal protection order forms (All forms—including translated forms in a variety of languages—can be accessed from this page. Links to specific forms are also listed below.)
    • CC 375: Petition for Personal Protection Order (Domestic Relationship)
    • CC 376: Personal Protection Order (Domestic Relationship)
    • CC 381: Notice of Hearing on Petition for Personal Protection Order
    • instruction booklet detailing which forms to fill out and how to process them

Michigan Organizations

National Organizations

Further Reading

1. The information provided in this manual should not be considered legal advice.

2. Michigan has three types of personal protection orders: domestic relationship PPOs, nondomestic stalking PPOs, and nondomestic sexual assault PPOs. This manual deals solely with domestic relationship PPOs.

3. MCL § 600.2950 (1)(4)

4. MCL § 600.2950

5. MCLA § 600.2950 (11)(d)

6. MCR § 3.707 (B)(1).

7. MCLA § 600.2950 (23)

8. MCLA § 600.2950 (12)

9. MCLA 600.2950 (14)

10. A petitioner who requests an ex parte hearing turns in forms CC 375 (petition) and CC 376 (court order) together. A petitioner who does not request an ex parte hearing turns in only CC 375, but must complete the petitioner’s section of CC 376 before the full hearing takes place.

11. MCLA§ 600.2950 (1)(k)

12. MCLA § 600.2950 (4)(a)&(b)

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