Panzer won't have to fear his owner's allegedly violent boyfriend anymore, now that the 6-year-old Labrador mix is protected under a restraining order. A judge has granted the dog — along with a human mother and her child — protection based on a new law in Massachusetts that considers the welfare of animals in homes where domestic violence has taken place. Panzer is the first dog in the state to benefit from the legislation, and is currently in foster care as his owner, a 38-year-old mother, and her son are temporarily living in a shelter. Here's what you should know:

What exactly is this new law?
The legislation that protects Panzer was passed as part of a larger bill called "An Act Further Regulating Animal Control." Under the law, which Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed in August, when judges issue restraining orders in the state, in addition to commanding that the abuser stay away from the victim and any children involved, they can also demand that violent offenders steer clear of any household pets.

How is Panzer being protected?
The dog is living with a foster family. The mother, who filed for the restraining order against her violent boyfriend (he had allegedly kicked and dragged Panzer before), receives regular updates about the pup's well-being. "Once she gets settled into a safe place, she will have her dog again," says Deni Michele Goldman, an animal control officer in Marshfield, Mass., where the order was issued.

Do other states protect animals this way?
Yes. In all, 22 states and Washington, D.C., include pets in protection orders. According to animal protection agencies, some 70 percent of abused women report that their batterers threatened to kill their pets. Making matters worse is that 50 percent of victims delay leaving abusive homes out of fear that their animals might be harmed. So, as Kara Holmquist, director of advocacy for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes, "It's good that [more] judges are becoming aware" of this issue.