September 25, 2006 12:00 PM

An argument, a punch thrown in anger, a restraining order—what happened hardly sounds unique. Except for one small, furry twist: When hairstylist Derick Lopez went to work July 20, he left his 6-year-old bichon frise Bebe in his Queens, N.Y., apartment with his friend Fredrick Fontanez. The two men later argued on the phone, and Lopez came home to find Bebe with a badly bruised eye and back. “He was yelping,” says Lopez, 27, who suspected Fontanez and reported him to the ASPCA. “He wanted to hurt me, and what better way than to take it out on my baby.”

An ASPCA agent determined that the dog had been assaulted, and last week a Queens judge gave Bebe an order of protection—the first for a dog in state history. Only one other state, Maine, currently allows restraining orders for pets caught in domestic disputes, but Bebe’s high-profile case could change that. “Abusers use pets as a pawn. It’s a signal that ‘I’m going to get you next,'” says New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who pushed through the bill and has since been contacted by other legislators. “I think eventually this law will be enacted in all 50 states.”

Fontanez, who declined to comment to PEOPLE, was charged with injuring an animal and faces a year in jail if he comes within 100 yards of either Bebe or Lopez. As for Bebe, he’s feeling better, though still a little skittish. His ordeal, says Lopez, has a silver lining: “Bebe made a stand for other dogs. He’s made his mark.”

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