Alaska state lawmakers seek pet protection in domestic violence cases

By Steve Quinn JUNEAU, Alaska (Reuters) - The well-being of pets would be considered in divorce, domestic violence and other types of cases under a bill introduced in the Alaska legislature, lawmakers said on Tuesday. The bill is in part designed to disarm abusers who use pets as leverage, said Republican State Representative Liz Vazquez of Anchorage, one of the bill's authors. "More and more animals are used by an abuser for punishment, manipulation or revenge against a victim," Vasquez said. "They will threaten to kill, maim or torture a pet to gain control over the family." The bill, introduced on Monday, also would amend domestic violence statutes to include temporary care or protection for animals. "Victims and children would hesitate to leave an abusive relationship or abusive environment for fear of leaving behind their pets," said Vazquez, a former prosecutor. "We can stop that." The bill requires consideration of an animal's well-being during divorce proceedings and calls for owners of animals lawfully seized for neglect or cruelty to cover costs in a shelter. Vazquez and Democratic colleague Max Gruenberg, both Anchorage attorneys and pet-owners, said they expect the legislation to gain bipartisan support. So far, 13 lawmakers have signed on in support. The bill must pass before an April 19 deadline or it will have to be considered next year. (Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Sandra Maler)