Protections for Domestic Violence & Pets in Maryland & D.C.

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Civil protective orders – CPOs, also referred to as restraining orders in some jurisdictions – are issued by courts for the purpose of preventing abuse, harassment or other types of behavior. Often, a victim of domestic violence petitions the court for a CPO in order to protect himself or herself from the perpetrator. Courts can tailor CPOs to meet the needs of a given situation; every situation is unique, and so CPOs are crafted to respond to the specifics of each scenario. 

In Maryland and Washington, D.C. (hereafter “D.C.”), the law of civil protective orders is fairly complex. The statutes are substantial in length, and take quite a bit of time to master. In this post, we’re going to restrict our discussion to how CPO law in Maryland and D.C. intersects with pet ownership. As we will see, the law in these jurisdictions has increasingly responded to the phenomenon of pet ownership. We will discuss how the laws have taken pet ownership into account when crafting CPOs.

Trends Regarding Pets in Protection Orders

Legislatures and courts have taken more notice of the fact that pet ownership can play a large role in people’s lives. Many people derive significant amounts of pleasure from pet ownership; what’s more, pet ownership may even play a role in a person’s well-being in many cases. For this reason, the law has recognized the importance of integrating custody of pets into both temporary and permanent CPOs. Legislators and judges increasingly understand that failing to include pets in CPOs can have a detrimental impact on the petitioners and their children. 

Current Provisions in Maryland & Washington D.C. Laws

In both Maryland law and D.C. law, judges can award custody of pets to the petitioner as part of their CPOs. Maryland and D.C. have specific rules which must be followed in order to grant a CPO in a given case; for instance, there are rules regarding the eligibility of CPOs, how long temporary orders may be in effect, and so forth. As mentioned, CPOs can be tailored to address the particular behaviors and circumstances of a given case. In order to award custody of pets, for instance, the petitioner will have to demonstrate why custody of the pet is necessary in a given situation. CPOs are not focused on catering to a person’s whimsy, but about ensuring that a person’s health and well-being are protected. To the extent that custody of a pet is necessary in this sense, such an award may be granted.

Under D.C. law, Sections § 16-1003 through § 16-1005 are the main sources to consult regarding petitioning rules, evidence rules, and other requirements for CPOs. In Maryland law, the main sources to consult are Maryland Code, Family Law, Sections § 4-501 through § 4-506. The ability of Maryland courts to award custody of a pet is written directly into the code. For instance, under § 4-501.1(c)(9), Maryland law states specifically that the court may grant temporary possession of a pet as part of a temporary civil protection order.

Contact Z Family Law for Additional Information

The main takeaway here is that, if you’re a Maryland or D.C. resident, you have the ability to take custody of pets as part of CPOs. If you do attempt to take custody, however, you should be aware of the fact that there will be evidentiary hurdles you need to meet. To learn more, reach out to Z Family Law today by calling 301-388-5528. We can help walk you through the complex process of CPOs in these jurisdictions.