INDIANAPOLIS – A legislative bill aimed at helping domestic violence victims hold onto their phone accounts received a companion piece involving pets Monday.
Under Senate Bill 323, a domestic violence victim would be able to retain his or her current phone number and account as part of a court-approved protective order process.
Supporters said that many victims have important contact information in their phones and that abusers who are also account holders can track and monitor victims.
The bill passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary Committee and heads to the House floor.
On Monday, an amendment was added that would allow victims to keep their pets under a similar protective order process.
Vicki Deisner, Midwest legislative director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, supported the amendment and discussed incidents where animals were harmed by a domestic violence abuser.
In one Indiana case, an abusive husband sent pieces of a cat’s tail to his wife, threatening to further harm the cat if the victim didn't come home.
In another, a stepfather threatened to kill a Dachshund and threw it against a wall. The dog later died of internal injuries, Deisner said.
Indiana would join 32 other states in having a pet protective order process for pets if the bill becomes law. A police officer would accompany the victim in retrieving the pet from an abusive home.
There is a separate bill in the Senate that addresses pet protective orders; however, its author, Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, testified Monday in favor of adding her provision to Senate Bill 323.
She said that studies have shown that 48 percent of domestic violence victims are fearful of leaving an abusive situation over concern for a pet.
“There are more households with pets than children,” said Laura Berry, executive director of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“It‘s one of the reasons that victims don’t reach out to us and leave abusive situations. … They’ll ask if we can take them and their pets,” she added.
Some domestic violence agencies have created foster care systems for animals; others have built animal shelters on their property.