Illinois Extends Domestic Violence Protection to Pets


Sometimes the only surprise a new law gives me is that it did not already exist. On the topic of animals, my most popular mental question is “What do you mean the law doesn’t…?”

A recent example: “What do you mean the law doesn’t extend restraining order protection to pets?” A handful of states do offer such protection, and Illinois joined them in August when the governor signed HB 9 into law (effective January 1, 2008).

Rep. John A. Fritchey of Chicago originally introduced the legislation in May 2006. Also in 2006, Maine made history as the first state with such a law, followed by Vermont and New York.

Itchmo covered a Connecticut law passed earlier this year. According to the Humane Society of the United States, bills are pending in other states including Michigan and Wisconsin. As I write, California bill SB 353 waits for Gov. Schwarzenegger’s signature, and a New Jersey bill if passed would offer a pet protection order against someone already found guilty of animal cruelty.

This article has a deeply personal resonance. My grandmother was a domestic violence victim, fleeing her home more than 40 years ago with four children in tow. I grew up hearing sad tales of abuse fueled by alcohol, ghost stories starring a faceless grandfather I met years later when my mom decided reconciliation might increase her healing.

As a dog-loving kid too young to process this tragic anecdotal tapestry, I remember feeling devastated my mother never had a puppy. A dog would have made everything “all better,” like any remedy prescribed by childish logic.

Statistics from American Humane remind me that my Mom may have been almost lucky she had no dog to hug back then. Too often animals are one more pawn, one more beloved life to harm or threaten in the cycle of physical and emotional violence, one more reason to stay too long in a dangerous environment.

Even the best legislation cannot offer complete solutions, and shelters for people are seldom shelters for pets. Community organizations have stepped into this gap for years, including Safety for Animals and Families in Emergencies (SAFE) in Ohio, and the Animal Welfare Society in Maine.

Laws may not offer complete solutions, but they do help — and they serve as milestones of cultural progress. In my grandmother’s day, there were no laws addressing domestic violence. Animal cruelty is now a felony in most states. And in one more state, Illinois, domestic violence victims have a new way to protect the pets they love.

Photo: Candace Schilling

12 Responses to “Illinois Extends Domestic Violence Protection to Pets”

  1. nora says:

    This is the best news. This is history in the making and I am going to pursue this in Iowa. Thank you Itchmo.

  2. Sharon says:

    Nora, please do pursue it in Iowa. I’m a survivor of domestic violence who fled Iowa to get away from my abuser. Many women stay at home rather than go to a shelter because shelters do not take family pets. My cat would have been killed if I had left her with him.

  3. nora says:

    You did the right thing Sharon, taking your fur baby. I also fled Iowa in 1974 because of domestic abuse…..I returned 20 some years ago and live here now because of family obligations.

  4. 2CatMom says:

    As an Illinoisian, I’m glad this law has been passed but unfortunately, orders of protection do not deter the truly violent. We’ve all read about a spouse who are killed by their ‘estranged’ or ‘ex’ spouse - and how the order was routinely violated time and time again.

    Take your kids and pets and run for your life.

  5. Trudy Jackson says:

    How do I find out if N.C. has this law yet?

  6. Helen says:

    Please add to the list of Safe Houses for pets of Domestic Violence Victoms the Rancho Coastal Humane Society in Encinitas, CA. This Humane Society also has several other free programs for persons hospitalized with no one to care for their pet(s) and also for service personnel who recieve orders to go overseas. The animals receive free neutering and updating on vaccinations. The owner can designate that the animal stay in the shelter be placed in a foster home. This is the only shelter in So. California that does this and has done it for quite some time.

  7. Lynn says:

    This is great news. All it takes is one state to do it and then tons of people spreading the word and rattling the cages of state legislators.

  8. Lynn says:

    Letter sent to Schwarzenegger this evening asking him to sign SB 353.

    Californians should go to this link and complete [name, address, email, and topic] and write message on the page that follows:

  9. Animal Lawyers Increase in Numbers, Popularity | Itchmo: News For Dogs & Cats says:

    […] behavior specialist explaining how she makes recommendations during pet custody disputes. (The new Illinois law featured on Itchmo earlier this week, HB 9, also mentions “custody” of […]

  10. eichelberger,don jr says:

    its a very nice word of meaning protectoin that should be for our pets safty
    but sadly there isint enough for us humans either as I learned through many years of deprivatoins corruptoin and denials of another reality of abuses and with all the knowage I gained i find it just as difficult to explain
    in words problems that apply to my pet and more importantly myself a human.he’s my only friend and im glad that at least there’s some laws to
    protect him of only scares that can be seen
    don eichelberger jr

  11. Illinois bill would ban carbon monoxide euthanasia says:

    […] sheet for Illinois House Bill 4844, sponsored by Representative John Fritchey. (Rep. Fritchey also sponsored the Pet Protection Act which passed in […]

  12. Maya Gupta says:

    Nora and Sharon, I’m bumping this to get your attention…Iowa’s pet protection order bill has now passed the Senate but is having trouble in the House. Your testimony could help make the difference, but the timeline is short (Thursday 3/27). If you or any other DV survivors in Iowa see this, please email me at Thanks.

E-mail It