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Jan 16, 2015 5:50 PM

NH1 Investigates: Family pets can play role in domestic violence cases


CONCORD - Domestic violence.

When we hear about it, we often think of physical abuse to a loved one but now, that loved one often includes the family pet.

And that's why New Hampshire lawmakers passed a law helping victims who put their own lives on the line as they fear for the safety of their four-legged friends.

There's nothing quite like the love for a family pet but sometimes that love can come with a price.

"They're terrified," says Paula Kelley-Wall, the program director at the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire.

She's worked with victims of domestic violence for 15 years.

"It's paralyzing enough to make people stay," said Kelley-Wall.

That includes victims who stay in harm's way when the abusers use the family pet as a pawn.

When asked if a woman will put their life on the line, Kelley-Wall quickly answered, "Absolutely, every day." She went on to say, "It's just like your children."
She says 48% of women risk their own lives for their pets.

But why?

"It's leaving behind the only family member that has bonded with you, supported you, and literally watched everything happen in that home," said Kelley-Wall.

But just last spring, New Hampshire lawmakers passed legislation that extends domestic violence protective orders to pets.

The Granite State is one of 29 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico that currently have similar laws on the books.

Lyn Schollett is the executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual violence.

Schollett says the law is much needed as abusers take their violence to a whole new level.

"They threaten them, they steal them or they kill them in an effort to control or psychologically terrorize victims," Scholett told NH1. When asked how necessary is the legislation, she was quick to answer, "Very much so."

Franklin Police Chief David Goldstein was a driving force behind the law.

"This gives the animals protection as well as the families," Chief Goldstein says.

He says 71% of women won't leave an abusive situation until they can take their animals with them and after more than three decades wearing the badge, he has his fair share of horror stories.

The Chief went on to talk about how some of the abusers treat their victims.

"And killing the animal in front of the individual and saying, if you talk about this, this is what happens to you," he said.

When asked what he had witnessed, Chief Goldstein recalled, "I saw a St. Bernard killed." He went on to say, "Probably one of the most reprehensible things an individual can do."

And now with this law here in New Hampshire, Kelley-Wall says many victims are still afraid but emphasizes that there's help and all victims have to do is reach out.

"We don't want fatalities," she says. "We don't want people to feel like there's no hope."

There's the hope victims know or will find out they have options while at the same time, they can be with their pet.

For more information, you can log on to the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence or at 1-866-644-3574 or the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire or 866-841-6229.

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