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Texas Family Violence and Domestic Assault Cases Will Include New Pet Protection Act Which Becomes Law on September 1, 2013

Texas domestic assault and family violence cases are seen all too often in Dallas area criminal courts, and Texas criminal defense lawyers represent people from all walks of life who have been arrested and charged with some sort of family violence / domestic assault crime.  One reason is that many different kinds of relationships can form the basis of a family violence case under Texas law: it’s not just husbands and wives in conflict — it can be college dorm roommates in a dispute over something, for example, or cousins who get into an altercation at a family barbeque.   (For details on Texas’ family violence law, check out resources page for details.)

These are usually very emotional situations — and when the parties live in the same home, everyone (and everything) in that home becomes involved in the case.   Family members will take sides, almost everyone will have their own opinion on the situation, and even the family pet  will play a part in things.

Pets can be fought over  —  who gets to keep  the dog  or cat if the couple splits?  — and pets can be targets of threats, too.  Which means that animals can be a part of a domestic assault / family violence case in Texas just like the kids and the car and the house.

Texas Family Code 85.021 (1)(C) – Pets in Protective Orders Before September 1, 2013

For several years, the Texas Family Code has provided the following in Tex. Family Code 85.021 when a Texas Court issues a protective order in a family violence / domestic assault situation,  the court may:

(1) prohibit a party from:

(A) removing a child who is a member of the family or household from: (i) the possession of a person named in the order; or (ii) the jurisdiction of the court;

(B) transferring, encumbering, or otherwise disposing of property, other than in the ordinary course of business, that is mutually owned or leased by the parties; or

(C) removing a pet, companion animal, or assistance animal, as defined by Section 121.002, Human Resources Code, from the possession of a person named in the order;

(2) grant exclusive possession of a residence to a party and, if appropriate, direct one or more parties to vacate the residence if the residence:

(A) is jointly owned or leased by the party receiving exclusive possession and a party being denied possession;

(B) is owned or leased by the party retaining possession; or

(C) is owned or leased by the party being denied possession and that party has an obligation to support the party or a child of the party granted possession of the residence;

(3) provide for the possession of and access to a child of a party if the person receiving possession of or access to the child is a parent of the child;

(4) require the payment of support for a party or for a child of a party if the person required to make the payment has an obligation to support the other party or the child; or

(5) award to a party the use and possession of specified property that is community property or jointly owned or leased property.

Texas Family Code 85.021 (1)(C) – Pets in Protective Orders After September 1, 2013

This section of the Texas Family Code has been changed by the Texas Legislature.  The law has been amended by Texas Senate Bill 555 and after being approved and signed into law by Governor Rick Perry, it will become effective on September 1, 2013.  The revision states:


SECTION 1. Section 85.021, Family Code, is amended to read as follows:

…In a protective order, the court may:

(1) prohibit a party from:

C) removing a pet, companion animal, or assistance animal, as defined by Section 121.002, Human Resources Code, from the possession or actual or constructive care of a person named in the order;….

What Does This Change in the Family Code Mean in Family Violence / Domestic Assault Cases?

The change in the law will allow a Texas judge to issue a protective order that allows someone to leave their home and take their pets with them – and if they cannot keep their dog or cat or bird with them then the new law will protect the pet during its stay in a local shelter, or rescue organization home, etc.   Organizations that exist to protect victims of domestic abuse welcome this change because they argue that abuse victims sometimes stay in bad situations because  they will not leave their pet behind.

The change helps these people get the help that they need.   For the other spouse, or roommate, or family member,  that loves that pet, too – they may lose the companionship of that animal once the new law hits in September 2013.

For more on family violence /domestic assault cases, check out Michael Lowe’s Case Results page. 


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