There is a strong link between domestic violence and animal abuse. Domestic violence perpetrators often abuse family pets as a means of controlling their human victims.
In an aim to protect our furry friends, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland recently signed several bills that aim to tighten protections for animals against abuse. These regulations, if violated, can lead to criminal penalties. Under Maryland’s Criminal Law Code, a perpetrator can be charged with a felony and face up to three years of incarceration and/or a $5,000 fine for intentionally mutilating, torturing, beating, or inflicting death upon an animal. Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 10-606.
The criminal penalties for animal abuse in Maryland are severe, yet there are no provisions for the protection of pets from abuse in final protective orders in Maryland, which give way to criminal penalties if violated. Maryland’s final protective order relating to protection of pets currently provides for the award of temporary possession of a companion animal, but, unfortunately, it does not mention a pet’s entitlement to relief from abuse. Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-506(d)(13). The final protective order issued under the Annotated Code of Maryland should include provisions that prohibit access to and abuse of companion animals (the term companion animal will be used interchangeably with the terms pet, family pet, and animal).