Pets will soon have legal protection during divorce and domestic violence proceedings, once Gov. Bill Walker signs recently passed legislation into law.

House Bill 147 has unanimously passed both the Senate and the House and now heads for Walker’s desk. It makes a few key changes to current laws regarding the well being of pets, including custody rights. It also holds owners financially responsible for costs associated with removing a pet from a home due to neglect or abuse, a feature that could save local agencies money.

“Our pets are members of our families. Though this is not as critical as continuing the work we’re doing to shrink government or responsibly review the governor’s revenue bills, we have to remember that we’re sent here to Juneau to represent people; real human beings, many of whom have pets they love as much as their friends and family,” Rep. Liz Vazquez, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement.

Domestic violence victims, who are sometimes forced to leave behind their pets in order to protect themselves, will also benefit from the bill.

“Imagine being a domestic violence victim with an abuser who uses your pet as a weapon to keep you from calling the police or Troopers. This bill takes that threat away with its victim’s privilege,” Vazquez explained.

The bill will take effect 90 days after Governor Walker signs it. The late-Rep. Max Gruenberg also had a hand in writing the bill, according to Vazquez.