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DivorceOrders of Protection for Dogs?

October 8, 2007

I previously wrote about custody of dogs in divorce actions.

Now, there is a trend to issue orders of protection in favor of pets. The New York Times reported that in one case in Connecticut, a golden retriever was granted an order of protection against one half of a divorcing couple.

As the police tell it, Cassandra Reynolds pulled up in the driveway of her ex-husband’s home in South Windsor to pick up a few belongings.A dispute ensued. Her ex-husband’s golden retriever approached her, so she kicked it, the police said. The dog yelped. Ms. Reynolds was arrested.

That was on Sept. 23. The next day, a Superior Court judge ordered Ms. Reynolds, 39, to stay away from her ex-husband and his new wife. The judge also ordered her to stay at least 100 yards away from Riley, the golden retriever — or face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Not surprisingly, pets, like people, are victims of domestic violence. According to the Times, there is legislation pending in other states, including New York, to allow courts to issue orders of protection in favor of animals. While this may be a noble and even necessary measure, I wonder if there is better way to accomplish the same goal.

As one police officer pointed out, “In a dispute, people tend to fixate on things they know will harm the other person.” Let me preface, my next statement, by saying I am a dog lover and owner. That said, is the case of directing anger against the dog in the incident described in the Times article, much different from smashing the windshield of the spouses car? Aren’t both acts really just displaced anger designed to hurt or terrorize the spouse?

Wouldn’t a better solution be to read and write orders of protection issued in cases of domestic violence broadly to protect both the person and the property of the person? Isn’t the symbolic act of violence directed to the property or pets of a person a threat which should be included in any protective order?

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