Added protections for domestic abuse survivors in Missouri to include pets

Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 10:14 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Soon domestic abuse survivors in Missouri will have more protection.

Governor Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 71 last week. It modifies laws in civil cases.

“Abuse affects more than just the individual target,” said Janice Thompson.

She’s an abuse survivor turned advocate and helped get the bill signed into law.

Thompson says she never let her goal to improve the laws for domestic assault victims waiver even when she was told nothing more could be done.

“They’re never going to talk to you about it. There’s no way you’re ever going to get this done. It’s took us forever to allow renewals. You might as well just give up now. I said, oh challenge, okay,” she said.

After months of work she made her way to Jefferson City to testify at hearings about the bill. She and many others worked to help law makers understand the need to improve protections.

“We watched jaws drop. They were like, we had no idea this what you go through. I’m like, we tell you guys this all the time,” she explained.

Thompson’s fight brought her all the way to Governor Mike Parson’s office to see the bill signed into law.

In addition to possible life-time protections for abuse survivors, the new law also modifies child custody provisions to include grandparent visitation rights.

Stalking laws have been updated to include threats or communications made online.

Pets are now offered protections as well.

“Sometimes pets are our family because we’ve had everybody else alienated. We haven’t been able to retain those family connections or friendships so our pets are really important to us,” said Thompson.

Kristen Snell, Case Management Coordinator at Harmony House in Springfield said, “When abusive partners begin to take action against the pet whether it’s harming them or killing them, that’s a signal of escalation of abuse that they are then perpetrating against their partner.”

Snell says often times people won’t leave an abusive situation if it means leaving a pet behind.

Though the shelter doesn’t currently take animals they do try to work with those seeking protection.

“Anything that we can do to provide protection for the victims, their children, other members of their family and now their pets, that’s going to be a definite game changer,” said Snell.

Thompson said, “It’s hopeful to see this but then to know, still, that there are so many suffering, that will continue to drive me to work for change.”

The new law also requires the protection order information be shared with law enforcement data bases so that it comes up on criminal background checks.

To view the new legislation click here.

The law goes into effect on August 28.

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