Mike Fleiss, the creator of hit reality shows like "The Bachelor," has been living a made-for-television drama of his own lately. The Hawaiian resident has been ordered to keep his distance from his estranged wife and their pet dog.
According to the temporary restraining order (TRO), the television producer is now required to keep at least 100 yards away from his wife. He's also, per her request, prohibited from getting anywhere near the family dog. In specific, the order states that Fleiss cannot "take, sell, transfer, encumber, conceal, molest, attack, strike, threaten, harm, or otherwise dispose of" the wife's Doberman Pinscher, Nina.
If that sounds unusual to you, it doesn't to experts in the field of domestic violence. Research has shown that domestic abusers often use pets as a way to control and hurt their victims -- especially when those victims are women. The connection between women and their pets is often strong enough that threats of harm to the animal are enough to keep the women in check.
Since many shelters for battered women won't take pets, women whose spouses have threatened to hurt or kill their pets are often faced with the choice of staying in the situation, letting the animal go to a rescue or leaving the pet behind where the abuser has control of it.
According to a survey by Women's Refuge, hundreds of women surveyed admitted that their pets kept them tied to their abusers longer than they might have otherwise stayed. As one woman said, "I would have left earlier knowing [the animals] were somewhere safe and being cared for."
If you or your loved one needs help getting out of a domestic violence situation, a temporary restraining order may be the key. Rest easy in knowing that animals may be included in the order if there's a risk of harm to a pet.