On August 2, 2012, Governor Deval Patrick signed Chapter 193 of the Acts and Resolves of 2012, An Act Further Regulating Animal Control.  Provisions of this law became effective on October 31, 2012.  The new section to the non-abuse statute, Chapter 209A is section 11(a ) which now allows a court to order “possession, care, and control of any domesticated animal owned, possessed, leased, kept or held by either party or a minor child residing in the household to the plaintiff or petitioner”.

Under this new section, the court may also “order the defendant to refrain from abusing, threatening, taking, interfering with, transferring, encumbering, concealing, harming, or otherwise disposing of such animal”.

In the ever expanding role of courts to separate out the intertwined existences of cohabitating parties, the lives of our dear pets have been neglected up until now.

For those of you who are not animal lovers, please do not laugh at the importance of this new legislation.  For many happy years, my wife and I owned and very much loved our miniature dachshund, until she passed away two years ago.  She was like our child and it was devastating to let her go.  So when I handle divorce cases in which the parties love their animals as much as their children I can relate.  I have worked out shared physical custody plans for parties to share their darling pets.

But the new section of the do not abuse statute is something else again.  This is a statute that says “thou shall not abuse Snoopy, hide him or otherwise harm him”.   This new section of the statute cannot be implemented by itself.  It must be part of an overall application for a restraining order by one party against the other.  And the implementation has its own set of additional documents to fill out for the court in addition to the traditional affidavit and 209A application.

So Lucy, beware!  Snoopy is armed with a new arsenal of rights.


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