Monday, the Minnesota Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill giving more protection to victims of domestic violence. The legislation would extend protection to pets helping victims seek help from abusive situations.

For many household, pets are another member of the family.

"We just are a society where pets are really valued. The family has a lot of emotional connections to their pets," says Ilene Grosam a social worker with Crime Victim Services in Freeborn County.

But when domestic abuse is involved, that animal may become a reason to stay.

"Some of the times it affects their ability to seek safety," says Grosam.

"It would be no different than trying to leave a child behind," says Jeannie Jackson, Executive Director of Group Support Services.

Jackson works with offenders and sees how pets are used as a way to intimidate victims.

"The pets are used as a form of trying to control someone else and they're used more as a weapon," says Jackson.

"Often times children, as well, are told not to talk about the abuse or the animal will get hurt," says Grosam.

A new bill passed by the Senate would allow a judge to include pets under a victim's order for protection, allowing them to stay in their home rather than go to a woman's shelter.

"Our shelters in Minnesota tend to stay fairly full so often times they may be waiting an extra amount of time to get to a safe situation," says Grosam.

"It'll be another documentation for the victim to be able to keep the animal with them and keep the animal safe," says Jackson.

Giving them one less reason to stay in an abusive situation.

"It allows one less thing for a perpetrator to try and use as a form of power and control over the victim," says Jackson.

"As long as they know they are able to protect themselves their children and their pets, I believe it will make them more comfortable in seeking out the services they need in order to prevent domestic violence from recurring," says Grosam.

If the bill is approved, Minnesota would become the 14th state to pass legislation protecting pets in domestic abuse situations.

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