Maine uses USU research to support new law protecting
By Aaron Falk
April 27, 2006 | Maine lawmakers have cited USU research
in support of a newly signed law that includes pets
in court-issued protective orders.
USU professor of psychology Frank Ascione has done
extensive research linking violence against pets in
domestic abuse cases. Ascione said protective orders
in most states only apply to people.
"The intention of the law is to not only send the
message to batterers, but to indicate to society at
large that pets can become pawns in families with domestic
violence," Ascione said. "There are occasions where
someone threatens to hurt animals to terrorize family
members, which results in some women staying with the
During a study conducted in the late 1990s, Ascione
found that 54 percent of women who have been battered
reported that their partner hurt or killed one or more
of their pets, compared to only 5 percent of women who
had not been battered.
Maine Rep. John Piotti sponsored the bill and cited
Ascione's research in it. Ascione's study, which will
be published in a journal later this year, involved
101 women who had reported being abused from five Utah
Ascione said he used a control group of 120 women
who had never reported being abused.
According to a story in The New York Times, the Maine
law is the first of its kind. Ascione said it's a law
he'd like to see catch on around the nation.
"I think it's a step forward because protective orders
sometimes allow the batterer to remain in the home with
the victim," he said. "This tells the batterer to refrain
from being abusive or be subject to a separate criminal
offense. What this is saying is that they need to refrain
from violence against, not just the wife and children,
but the animals who are dear to those children."