A Newly Signed Law Means New Protections for Florida Victims of Domestic Violence Who Are Also Pet Owners

Most “pet parents” understand that their dog, cat or other animal isn’t mere “property” but, rather, is a beloved member of the family. A person’s bond with their pet may be on a par with the bond they feel for their closest human loved ones. That love does, however, have a potential drawback for one group of people, which is people in abusive relationships. A victim of abuse may forego or delay leaving an abusive situation out of fear for the well-being, or the very life, of their beloved “fur babies.” A new law in Florida, however, has provided these people and their pets an added degree of protection through the system of injunctions for protection against domestic violence. If you are encountering abuse, don’t delay in reaching out to a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney for options to protect your legal interests and your personal safety.

In late June, Governor DeSantis signed into law a bill that amends the Florida statute governing domestic violence injunctions. The new law expands the legal authority granted to judges in domestic violence injunction cases. Specifically, the bill added a new section to the statute, which says that a person who petitions successfully for a domestic violence injunction may potentially receive, in addition to temporary exclusive use of the couple’s home and 100% timesharing of the couple’s children, the “temporary exclusive care, possession, or control of an animal that is owned, possessed, harbored, kept, or held by the petitioner, the respondent, or a minor child residing in the residence or household of the petitioner or respondent.”

The court may also order the alleged abuser to have no contact with the animal. The law carves out exclusions for animals that are owned “primarily for a bona fide agricultural purpose” and for a service animal if the alleged abuser is the service animal’s handler. In other words, even if you provide the necessary proof to get a domestic violence injunction, you cannot, for example, take your sight-impaired abuser’s service dog or remove livestock from your abuser’s farm.

Fear for a pet’s safety (or life) kept many victims from seeking help

It may be surprising to those not touched by domestic violence or who are not “pet people,” but this new law is a very important development. As a Humane Society director told Spectrum News 13, the “majority of people who end up in domestic violence shelters say that their pets have been harmed or even killed by the abuser.” The fear that seeking an injunction will place their pet’s health, and maybe even life, at risk will often “keep people from going to seek help,” according to the director.

Under the newly amended statute, the injunction that a judge issues can issue may, potentially, cut off all contact between the abuser and the pet for the duration of the injunction. The new provision in the statute says that a court may cut off all contact between the abuser and the pet, and may bar the abuser from “taking, transferring, encumbering, concealing, harming, or otherwise disposing of the animal.” With that type of injunction, you can seek help from the authorities if your ex comes near your pet, just the same as you would if he/she comes near you.

If you think that your situation has reached a point where you need a domestic violence order, then you need to take action immediately. Reach out to the skilled South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. to go over the facts of your case and begin the process of applying for an injunction. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation. The sooner you act, the sooner we can get started seeking the court orders you need to protect yourself and your loved ones.