A bill under consideration at the statehouse would put pets under protective orders sought by someone who fears a spouse or former lover. If the bill becomes law, a judge issuing a no-contact order in a domestic situation could stipulate the person is not to have contact with the household’s pets, too.

Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, is the bill’s sponsor. "It’ll provide some protection for family pets that might get in a bad circumstance…in a domestic situation that might not be good," Bolkcom says. Bolkcom got the idea for the bill from a constituent in Iowa City.

"It’s a legitimate concern. A lot of families have pets," Bolkcom says. "When those families break up, there needs to be some consideration of how to make sure that family pet gets good care and I think this legislation will provide more opportunity for that to happen." Attorney General Tom Miller says he hasn’t reviewed the legislation and doesn’t know yet whether it’s something he’d support.

"It is true that people that do commit violent acts sometimes start out by doing violent things to animals," Miller says. "…Whether we want to go this far I’m not sure. I just want to have a chance to look at it a little more and talk to some people I respect in the domestic violence area."

Nine other states have adopted laws which let judges place a household pet under a non-contact order. The bill that’d make it law in Iowa cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. The American Humane Society backs the idea of covering "companion animals" under no-contact orders.

The group cites a 2001 study which found 13 percent of intentional animal abuse was linked to domestic violence. In addition, the study concluded the vast majority of those incidents occurred in front of a partner someone was trying to intimidate or control.