AKC Legislative Position Statement Protects Pets of Domestic Violence Victims and Ownership Rights

The American Kennel Club re-emphasized its recognition and concern about the linkage between domestic violence and the abuse of pets with a new Canine Legislation Position statement on Protections for Pets Under Domestic Violence Acts at the recent April AKC Board Meeting.

The new position statement advises that The American Kennel Club supports additions to states’ domestic violence statutes that allow for the issuance of protective orders that seek to guard pets from harm, risk of harm or alienation. Such protections should include prohibiting alleged abusers from contact with pets and permitting grants of temporary exclusive care or control of a pet to a petitioning alleged victim. Statutes may also provide appropriate financial remedies for the petitioner to provide for the care of the animals subject to a protective order. These provisions should not impact the legal status of animals as property.

The statement, developed in conjunction with the AKC Delegates Legal Outreach committee, establishes AKC’s support for policies and amendments to domestic violence statutes that protect both humans and their pets from domestic violence, while also ensuring that such policies do not impact the crucial protections provided to pets and their owners due to the legal status of pets as property.

For some time, the AKC has recognized the complex dilemma involving pets and domestic violence.  Sociological and psychological studies show that a significant percentage of domestic violence cases involving family victims also involve threats and/or actual harm perpetrated against pets.  A nationwide survey of 50 of the largest domestic violence shelters in the U.S , dating back to 1997, reports  that 85 percent of women and 63 percent of children in domestic violence shelters also reported domestic incidences of animal abuse.  

This troubling reality exacerbates the tragedy because many victims of domestic abuse are reluctant to leave a dangerous situation for fear of the fate of a pet left behind. Increasingly, shelters are working to make accommodations where possible for the pets of victims. However, many shelters are not adequately equipped or may not have the resources to provide housing for pets accompanying human victims.

Since 2010, the AKC Humane Fund has been a leader in advocating and helping to address this issue. The AKC Humane Fund has provided more than 80 grants to shelters, women’s organizations and related groups to assist with arrangements for caring for the pets of domestic violence victims. 

The AKC is also pleased to advocate and work with shelters to raise awareness about the connection between victims and their pets, and ways that shelters can accommodate victims pets.  You can find out more about the AKC Humane Fund program here.

“Protecting the Family Pet: The New Face of Maryland Domestic Violence Protective Orders”. Friedman and Norman, 40. U Balt. LAwForum, 81,86 (2009)