AWI Publishes Guidelines for Including Pets in Protection Orders

New state-specific manuals compiled by attorneys working with AWI will help lawyers and advocates for domestic violence survivors to utilize protection orders on behalf of their clients’ companion animals.

Domestic violence intake interviews typically do not involve questions about the presence of pets, so they are rarely included in petitions and final orders. However, laws in 29 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico directly address the inclusion of companion animals on protection orders, and even in those states without such laws, there are ways to have protection orders cover them.

Each manual first addresses why pets should be covered under protection orders in cases of domestic violence, noting that abusers harm companion animals just as they physically harm their partners and children. One survey found that 71 percent of domestic violence victims with pets reported that their abusers had threatened, injured, or killed their pets. Victims often refuse to leave violent situations or relationships for fear of what will happen to their companion animals. When seeking help, they may not even bother to mention that they have a pet—under the false assumption that there are no resources available for them.

Each manual discusses the general legal landscape surrounding the inclusion of pets in civil protection orders, gives details about the laws in that specific jurisdiction(s), and provides links to forms and outside resources.

Currently, there are manuals for the District of Columbia/Maryland/Virginia, Colorado, and Wisconsin. Eventually, there will be manuals for the remaining states and Puerto Rico. The manuals are available online at