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.