Rising Above Politics: Safeguarding Lives of Both Humans and Animals

Melancholic puppyPhoto by Molnar Norbi on Pexels.com
Op-Ed by Caitlin Alyse Baiduc, Humane Action Pennsylvania, Eastern PA Coordinator

In September 2023, I wrote an op-ed highlighting the link between domestic violence and animal abuse and celebrating the passage of H.B. 1210 in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. This proposed amendment to Title 23 (Domestic Relations) expands relief measures, particularly in emergency situations overseen by the minor judiciary, and emphasizes arrest protocols for order violations. Notably, it also allows for the inclusion of companion animals in Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders, granting temporary ownership rights over a companion animal and prohibiting a defendant from possessing, contacting, transferring, or relocating the animal, or entering the property of any person sheltering the companion animal. If passed – by removing the difficult decision of whether to flee an abuser and leave one’s beloved animal behind – H.B. 1210 would empower survivors of domestic violence to escape their perpetrators, thereby benefiting and protecting humans and animals alike.

When I wrote that op-ed nearly six months ago, I envisioned the bill sailing through the PA Senate unobstructed and being enacted into law. In a state of nearly 13 million, where 37.1% of women and 30.4% of men experience intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes, I imagined the numerous humans and animals who would benefit from protections made possible by this change to PA’s PFA laws.

Sadly, that has not been the case.

After passing in the House with bipartisan support on July 6, 2023, H.B. 1210 has since been languishing in the Senate Judiciary. To further complicate matters, a virtually identical bill (Senate Bill 1105) has been introduced in the PA Senate by Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-49) of Erie, PA. This is a disheartening political maneuver to avoid supporting the original bill proposed by Representatives Christina D. Sappey and Natalie Mihalek, the leaders of H.B. 1210. This move underscores a troubling reality: the prioritization of political agendas over the well-being of victims of domestic violence and their cherished companion animals. It’s time to set aside our differences and unite for the greater good, putting human and animal well being first and foremost.

The introduction of a bill identical to H.B. 1210 is a stark reminder of this unfortunate reality. Rather than supporting a bill that would provide crucial protections for both domestic violence survivors and animals, some lawmakers have chosen to prioritize political gamesmanship over meaningful action. This approach not only undermines the integrity of the legislative process but also perpetuates a harmful narrative that animals are mere pawns to be used for political gain.

But the simple truth is human and animal welfare is not – and should never be – a political issue. It transcends political divides and speaks to the fundamental values of compassion, empathy, and justice that unite us as a society. Whether Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, we can all agree that animals and victims of domestic violence deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, free from harm and exploitation.

If the PA Senate decides to move Senate Bill 1105 forward, this will cause that bill to be sent to the PA House of Representatives. There is simply no time for that! It is crucial for H.B. 1210 to get passed in the PA Senate before the end of the current legislative session. Consider that 40 US states now have pet protection order laws on the books. It is time for PA to join the list.

In Pennsylvania, the statistics surrounding domestic violence are staggering. According to their statistics, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence serves 90,000 victims of domestic violence each year. In 2023, 104 individuals lost their lives due to domestic violence-related incidents. These numbers are not just statistics; they represent real people – mothers, fathers, children – whose lives are forever altered by the blight of domestic violence. By passing H.B. 1210, Pennsylvania can join the ranks of states offering protection to the most vulnerable members of our society.

To learn more about this issue and what crucial actions you can take to support this legislation, please join Humane Action Pittsburgh’s webinar on May 10, 2024 (12-1pm ET), HB1210 Webinar: Support Survivors of Domestic Violence and Their Pets. Registration is free and open to all. Whether you’re an individual concerned citizen or an organizational leader, your attendance at this webinar can be the first step in making a difference for PA’s domestic violence victims and their cherished pets.

Together, we can make a difference. Together, we can build a more compassionate and just society for all beings.

Caitlin Alyse Baiduc
Humane Action Pennsylvania, Eastern PA Coordinator

For the latest news on everything happening in Chester County and the surrounding area, be sure to follow MyChesCo on Google News and Microsoft Start.