UTAH (ABC4) — Jessica Gonzalez and her dog Roxie have been through so much together.
“I was truly terrified for my life,” Gonzalez said.
It took two years for Gonzalez to leave an abusive relationship.
“I was really trapped… The only thing I had was my dog,” Gonzalez said.
When she finally came out, the nightmare continued. Gonzalez says her ex demanded that she return the dog. She said even her friends started harassing her.
“I was afraid they’d come and steal it from me,” Gonzalez said.
Rachel Heatley, advocacy director for the Humane Society of Utah, said she sees this happening all the time.
“Studies show that up to 50 percent of women have been slow to leave a domestic violence situation for fear of what would happen to their pet,” Heatley said.
House Bill 175 allows victims to extend protective orders to their pets, much like a parent would do with their child.
“You can physically separate the animal from the aggressor before it has a chance to attack the animal,” Heatley said.
Escaping an abusive relationship was the hardest thing Gonzalez had to do, but she said HB 175 could help provide some security for people who desperately need it.
“You have to find purpose in something and commit to something that makes you want to live, and she did that for me,” Gonzalez said.
On Friday, the House Standing Committee on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice unanimously passed HB 175 in the House for a vote.
Free, confidential help and support for victims and survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 1-800-897-LINK (5465) If you or someone else are in immediate danger or in an emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately.