Pets to be covered in protection orders in Ohio

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Ohio is about to pass a bill that would offer protection to pets by including them in protection orders that are already available to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and other abuse under Ohio law. S.B. 177, which was sponsored by Sens. Jim Hughes, R-Columbus, and Michael J. Skindell, D-Lakewood, has wide bipartisan support and passed unanimously in the Senate and with only one dissenter in the House. It allows judges to include companion animals in the protection orders they were already granting to victims of abuse. Under Ohio law, companion animals include any animal that is "kept inside a residential dwelling" and any dog or cat even if it is not kept within the home. This does not include livestock or wild animals.

The Dispatch reports that the bill has support from advocates for victims of domestic violence and other crimes as well as animal-rights groups. Supporters cite statistics about how frequently animals are harmed in domestic violence situations and the hesitation many victims have expressed about leaving abusive situations when they feel their pets are at risk. According to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, in a 2012 study, "40 percent of domestic violence victims reported that their pets were killed, harmed or threatened." The bill is designed to provide greater security to victims and encourage them to seek help.

The bill has been sent to Governor Kasich, who is expected to sign it.

For more information about this, see the Ohio Legislative Service Commission's analysis of the bill.