By Lindsay Pollard-Post
A dog who was beaten so severely that he now has to wear special goggles to shield his eyes from sunlight has inspired a proposed law in Florida that would make it a domestic-violence offense to torment a family member by physically abusing or threatening to harm or kill an animal.
The dog, "Little Horatio" (an alias used to protect the identity of those involved), once belonged to an 81-year-old woman whose son bludgeoned the dog in order to manipulate his mother. Thankfully, Little Horatio and his former guardian are both safe now—in fact, Little Horatio lives with Kathy Cornwell, a victim advocate for the Area Agency on Aging of Pinellas-Pasco, who urged Florida state Sen. Mike Fasano to file the proposed law.
The abusive scenario in which Little Horatio and his former guardian were trapped is not uncommon. Tampa Bay Online references a report showing that 71 percent of women who own animals and who enter shelters for abused women say that their abusers had harmed, killed, or threatened their animals. Studies have shown that up to 40 percent of victimized women have delayed seeking refuge from their abusers for as long as two months because of concerns for their animal companions' safety.
For all victims of domestic violence, let's keep our fingers, toes, and paws crossed that this law passes. If you live in Florida, please contact your local legislators and ask them to support the proposed law.