- Associated Press - Monday, March 13, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Supporters say a proposal moving through the Indiana Legislature would remove obstacles that domestic violence victims often face when trying to leave abusive relationships.

Under Republican state Sen. Erin Houchin’s bill, a victim would be able to leave an abuser’s phone plan and maintain his or her original phone number. Victims also would be able to include pets in a protective order.

Without the change, Houchin said, there are “extremely limited” routes to changing or leaving a plan. That’s presented issues for victims, as phones are often a valuable connection to a support system.

“Smart phones, as you know, have become a critical part of our daily lives,” the Salem lawmaker said. “Our smart phones carry all of our important information - from our network to our family and friends, our contacts, our emails.”

A House panel approved the measure 12-0 Monday. An approved amendment would allow the protective order to give a victim “exclusive” custody of a pet and prohibit an abuser from threatening or harming the animal.

The threat or actual use of violence against family pets can be part of the dynamic of family violence, said Vicki Deisner, the Midwest legislative director for ASPCA.

Many victims say they believe their pets would be harmed if they were to leave without them, she added, and say that factors into their decision.

“Enacting pet protective orders will help, then, to protect Indiana’s families by removing one obstacle that may prevent a victim from leaving an abusive situation,” Deisner said.

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Follow Darcy Costello on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dctello .

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