Farm Bill Protects Pets and Support Animals of Domestic Violence Victims

by John M. Simpson.

The Conference Committee compromise version of the 2018 Farm Bill, was released on December 10, 164 Cong. Rec. H9823 (Dec. 10, 2018).  The measure was passed by the Senate on December 11 and contains a provision that protects the pets, service animals, emotional support animals and horses of victims of stalking and domestic violence.   Section 12502 entitled “Protecting Animals with Shelter,” amends certain parts of Title 18, U.S. Code, to provide protection for such animals. 

Section 12502 would amend the following provisions of Title 18:

♦ 18 U.S.C. § 2261A, which currently prohibits travel in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent to kill, injure, harass, intimate “another person” or another person’s immediate family member, spouse or intimate partner, would  now include “the pet, service animal, emotional support animal or horse of that person” in the list of protected individuals.

♦ 18 U.S.C. § 2262, which currently prohibits travel in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent to engage in conduct that violates the provisions of a protective order that protects against violence, threats or harassment or that prohibits conduct or communication with the victim, would now add “the pet, service animal, emotional support animal or horse” to the list of individuals who could be covered by such a protective order and who are protected against the against the enumerated instances of illegal conduct.

♦ 18 U.S.C. § 2264, which currently provides for mandatory, court-ordered restitution for victims of stalking and domestic violence,  would now include “veterinary services relating to physical care for the victim’s pet, service animal, emotional support animal, or horse” to the definition of “full amount of the victim’s losses.”

Section 12502 contains the following definitions:

♣  “Pet” means “a domesticated animal, such as a dog, cat, bird, rodent, fish, turtle, or other animal that is kept for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes.”

♣  “Emotional support animal” means “an animal that is covered by the exclusion specified in section 5.303 of title 24, Code of Federal Regulations … and that is not a service animal.”  The referenced exclusion (which defines the coverage of Section 12502) is found in HUD regulations and covers animals “that are used to assist, support, or provide service to persons with disabilities.”

♣  “Service animal” has “the meaning given the term in section 36.104 of title 28, Code of Federal Regulations ….”  The CFR provision referenced here is the Department of Justice regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act which limits “service animal” to a dog that, inter alia, “is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”

Section 12502 also establishes a grant program covering emergency, temporary and transitional housing and shelter for victims of domestic and similar acts of violence who have pets, service animals, support animals and horses.

House action on the Farm Bill, which now bears the title “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018,” is expected later this week.