- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Victims of domestic violence could take their pets with them after leaving the relationship under an Indiana lawmaker’s measure that seeks to remove an impediment to reporting abuse.

Animal advocates and domestic violence organizations spoke in favor of the bill during the committee hearing Wednesday, the Evansville Courier and Press (https://bit.ly/2jVFcsx ) reported.

The bill proposed by Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, would also order police officers to recover pets for victims after an incident. Becker has worked on statutes concerning domestic violence since her initial session in the Indiana House.

“If I had been in an abusive situation, I wouldn’t have left if I didn’t know that my dogs, that I could either take them with me or make arrangements for them to be taken care of,” Becker said. “You know your animals are like a part of your family; it’s not just a little thing.”

According to the Beacon of Hope Crisis Center, up to 40 percent of victims say they stayed in an abusive relationship out of fear for their pet’s safety. Other studies, the newspaper said, showed higher numbers.

“Victims of family violence are often left deciding whether to stay in an abusive situation or to go and leave behind their beloved pet,” said Vicki Deisner, the Midwest legislative director for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Deisner cited an example of a colleague whose father broke his beagle’s legs. The mother and child stayed in the home until the dog died.

Beacon of Hope Crisis Center CEO Sandra Ziebold said she has heard similar stories.

“Those are accounts as a CEO of our community, but also I’m a survivor and my pet was harmed in 2002,” Ziebold said. “Having had this would have been immensely helpful.”

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, https://www.courierpress.com

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