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Legislature to look at a new level of protection for pets

Advocates seeking to reduce domestic violence incidents are looking to pets  to help prevent women from being battered. 

A bill that would in part extend the reach of restraining and protective orders to pets will be a subject of a state judiciary hearing Wednesday.

“Victims of domestic violence have had animals killed or maimed and used as a manipulative tool,” said state Sen. Katherine Clark of Melrose. who introduced the bill this year.

Recent incidents in Roxbury and Plymouth highlight the need for the bill, which is meant to remove a barrier that may keep women in an abusive relationship, advocates said.

Abusing animals “is used as a mechanism for having control over a victim either by making threats to the pet or causing actual harm to the pet,” said Maureen Gallagher, the policy director at the statewide domestic violence victims’ advocacy group Jane Doe, Inc. “We also have concerns because victims may not leave a situation if they fear animals will be left behind or would be hurt.”

Similar legislation has been enacted in more than a dozen other states, including Connecticut and Vermont.

Different versions have been previously introduced in Massachusetts in past years. However, this year it appears advocates have significant support to move the legislation forward.

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