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The Supreme Court of the State of Washington, US, has ruled on 17th February 2022 that an animal cruelty conviction for beating and killing the companion dog of a partner can qualify for a domestic violence designation under Washington law.

Charmarke Abdi-Issa had been accused of beating and killing his girlfriend’s companion dog, Mona, a small Chihuahua and dachshund mix, in a residential area of Seattle’s International District. Jurors found Abdi-Issa guilty of animal cruelty and he was given a one-year sentence, plus an additional six-month sentence for an aggravating factor. The court also imposed an order barring contact with the girlfriend, which is normally applied in cases of domestic violence. However, animal cruelty is not listed in the domestic violence statute, so the supreme court had to look at this sentence to consider if it was appropriate. It concluded that it is sufficiently similar to listed crimes that it was correct for the trial judge to ask jurors to decide whether it was a crime of domestic violence. 

In this state, when a case has a domestic violence designation it receives priority scheduling and can result in a pretrial no-contact order. Judges can also impose specialized no-contact orders at sentencing, which, if violated, can constitute a separate crime. This precedent means that, from now on, cases of animal cruelty linked to domestic abuse could be going to court quicker. Despite the legal system continuing to consider companion animals as property, being violent against a dog or a cat is much worse than damaging someone’s car or TV. Therefore, such violence should receive much higher sentences. But the legal recognition that hurting an animal is part of domestic violence is a good step towards recognising that the problem is the violence itself, rather than where it is directed to. The main principle of “nonviolence” of veganism addresses this, as it seeks to exclude harm done against anyone who can be harmed.