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When issuing a restraining order, a judge is expressly authorized to consider “the possession, care and control of any domesticated animals owned” by either party.

The applicable statute is found in M.G.L. c. 209A, § 11.

It addresses the custody, control, and protection of pets when any of the following orders are issued:

  • Orders to vacate;
  • Stay-away orders;
  • No contact orders; and/or
  • Most similar domestic-relations orders.

In such situations,

the court may order the possession, care and control of any domesticated animal owned, possessed, leased, kept or held by either party or a minor child residing in the household to the plaintiff or petitioner.


The court may order the defendant to refrain from abusing, threatening, taking, interfering with, transferring, encumbering, concealing, harming or otherwise disposing of such animal.

If the judge fails to provide for the care or the protection of a pet when the order is initially issued, either party may file a petition with the court asking that the matter be addressed.  Authority to make such a petition is found in section (b) of the statute.

Finally, the interest of the parties’ pets may again be considered if the protective order is violated.  Section (c) of the statute provides that, should violation arise,

the judge may make a finding, based upon the totality of the circumstances, as to whether there exists an imminent threat…to a domesticated animal belonging to the petitioner or to a member of the petitioner’s family or household.

After considering the facts,

If the court makes a finding that such an imminent threat of bodily injury to a person or domesticated animal exists, the court shall notify the appropriate law enforcement officials of such finding and the law enforcement officials shall take all necessary actions to execute any such outstanding warrant as soon as is practicable.