During Hurricane Katrina many people chose not to leave their homes because of their pets.

A survey conducted by the humanitarian nonprofit Fritz Institute found that 44 percent of the storm’s victims who chose not to leave did so because they weren’t willing to abandon their pets, according to a National Geographic story.

“Animals just can’t be overlooked,” said, Terri Crisp, the founder of Noah’s Wish, a nonprofit dedicated to helping pets during natural disasters and armed conflicts.

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Now imagine a victim of domestic violence whose spouse is threatening to kill the family cat or dog.

It’s easy to understand why some victims are afraid to leave an abusive situation.

A recently proposed bill, Senate Bill 97, which state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, co-authored, would help protect those animals and give victims extra peace of mind.

Under this bill, a judge could include provisions pertaining to pets in a restraining order or injunction order. A judge could order the person subject to the restraining order or injunction “to refrain from removing, damaging, hiding, harming, or mistreating, or disposing of a household pet,” according to the bill.

The bill would also allow the victim or a person acting on the victim’s behalf to retrieve a household pet from the abuser.

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The Wisconsin Humane Society, which has a shelter here in Racine County, reported that according to multiple studies between 18 and 48 percent of domestic violence victims delay leaving abusive situations out of fear for the safety of their animals. And 65 percent of women whose pets have actually been abused reported delaying going to a shelter because they were concerned for their pets’ safety.

In a written testimony in support of the legislation, the Wisconsin Humane Society wrote, “We can’t make women, children and men safe from domestic violence unless we make their animals safe as well.”

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The Wisconsin Humane Society has a program in place that helps shelter pets for victims, but say this bill would further help victims.

According to testimony from state Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, judges technically could issue these orders under current law but are reluctant to do so because the statutes don’t explicitly allow them to do so.

As Anne Reed from the Humane Society said in her written testimony, “This bill tells judges without question or ambiguity that they have the power to order abusers not only to leave their human victims alone, but to leave animals alone. By doing that, judges will protect not only those animals, but also the women, children and men who love them so deeply.”

Leaving a domestic violence situation will never be easy, but if this legislation can even make it slightly easier for victims, then this legislation should pass.

This is not just about protecting pets. It’s about protecting entire families.

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