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Legislation would create animal abuse registry in Michigan
Monday, May 13, 2013 12:04 AM EDT
By CAROL HOPKINS
email@example.com Twitter: @opcarolhopkins
Animal Care Network volunteers found starved dogs lying dead at the end of chains in Pontiac during the winter.
“There are so many repeat offenders who let animals starve in their backyard,” said Pam Porteous, the organization’s manager. “There should be a database of these people.”
Lawmakers have revamped bills that would establish a registry — similar to a sex offender registry — that would track animal abusers, and they are urging people to write to their legislators.
House Bill 4534 is sponsored by Republican Rep. Paul Muxlow, from the 83rd District. The district includes Sanilac County and Burtchville Township, Fort Gratiot Township and the city of Port Huron. House Bill 4535 is sponsored by Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Northwest Detroit. A third bill in the works would make it illegal for a person on the abuser registry to purchase an animal.
The grouping of bills is referred to as Logan’s Law, a reference to a beloved pet husky from Goodells, Mich., that was attacked by a stranger with acid and died.
Both legislators introduced similar measures last year.
Together, the bills would establish a statewide registry to protect animals from abuse and neglect.
Any person convicted of a crime against an animal would have to register for a five-year period. All citizens would have access to the registry and could make sure that no pet they are selling or offering for adoption would go to a convicted animal abuser.
Animal shelters would be mandated to use the registry before allowing their animals to be adopted. Offenders’ names would remain on the registry five years after they serve their sentence.
The registry would be paid for by the fees attached to the penalties for those convicted of animal abuse or neglect.
The 2013 bill has changes, said Chris Zavisa, Santana’s chief of staff. The Animal Legal Defense Fund will assemble the registry and get it online.
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s animal protection division will oversee the registry.
“These are huge improvements,” Zavisa said, adding the bills are tentatively set to go before the Judiciary Committee on May 23.
“Absolutely we want people to write to us or to Rep. Muxlow because we need to accumulate evidence of support as quickly as possible,” Zavisa said. He said the bills have “significant” bipartisan support.
Oakland County Animal Control Manager Robert Gatt said: “Luckily the county doesn’t have an abundant number of animal abusers. We take enforcement action when called for.
“Anyone abusing an animal will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
The Michigan Humane Society supports the initiative to establish an animal abuse registry to protect animals from getting into the hands of convicted abusers, said spokeswoman Nancy Gunnigle.
“Some changes to the bill are needed to ensure that all sources of animals, including breeders and pet stores, must use the new registry,” she said.
“In addition, small rural animal shelters and groups holding offsite adoption events must have ways to access the online registry. With these appropriate changes, Michigan pets stand to become the first protected in this way in the nation.”
Humane society officials plan to meet with Rep. Santana in mid-May to further discuss the bill.
Dogfighting offenders on list
Porteous said she is aware of people in the network’s target areas — Pontiac and Inkster — convicted of dog fighting and animal cruelty who have then gone out and obtained more animals.
“We’ll check on some of these owners who have let dogs starve, and find all new dogs in the back yard,” she said. “Those people should be on a registry.”
In February, a dog was found frozen and lifeless in an old cage outside a home on Central Avenue. County Animal Control officers picked up the dog’s carcass and issued the owner a citation, a misdemeanor.
The owner, 22, was charged with abandoning an animal and cruelty. She pleaded no contest in 50th District Court and paid $250 in fines and costs.
Oakland County Animal Control handles animal-related calls in Pontiac.
Zavisa pointed out another abuser arrested in Okemos.
“Andrew Thompson was convicted for killing a dozen Italian greyhound puppies,” he said. Thompson, 25, smashed the dogs against a wall. He was convicted, given five years’ probation and 400 hours of community service.
The former medical student told investigators he beat the dogs or threw them against walls because he was angry.
“But if he wants to, he can walk in anywhere and try to buy a pet,” said Zavisa. “Nobody would be the wiser.”
The registry, he said, would be a “roadblock.”
“At least in some cases it would stop people from doing this,” Zavisa said.
Supporters of the animal abuser registry hope the bills are approved this year.
Visit http://1.usa.gov/dLGSLH to find your Michigan representative.
Reps. Santana and Muxlow share the same address, P.O. Box 30014, Lansing, MI 48909-7514.
Residents who wish to speak to Rep. Harvey Santana about the Animal Abuse Registry bill can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call his office toll-free at 855-347-8010.
Anyone who witnesses animal abuse is urged to contact the Oakland County Animal Control Division at 248-391-4100.
Contact Carol Hopkins at 248-745-4645 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @OPCarolHopkins or on Facebook @OPcarolhopkins.
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