Animal abuse is a serious problem in this country, and not just for our beloved pets. There is a documented correlation between animal abuse and other violent behaviors such as domestic violence and even serial murder. Two years ago, I was approached about sponsoring legislation to create a registry to identify convicted animal abusers and prevent them from owning pets. Being an animal lover myself, I agreed to take the lead and introduced the original house bill in February of 2012.
Early in 2013, I recruited fellow House member Representative Paul Muxlow (R-Brown City), as well as Senators Steve Bieda (D-Warren) and Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) to work on the legislation with me. Over the last 12 months, our bipartisan efforts have seen the bills go through many changes, including a complete rewrite last October. In that time, the concept has been honed from a costly and cumbersome stand-alone registry to an efficient reference tool integrated into an existing Michigan State Police database known as ICHAT, or the Internet Criminal History Access Tool.
Let me be clear: These bills make no illusions of ending all animal abuse. To try to legislate something like that is impossible. Instead, what these bills are aimed to do is to help animal shelters and controls protect their animals during the adoption process. The bill package would also mandate a person who is convicted of animal abuse not own an animal for a period of five years after conviction or incarceration. This package of bills has full support from the animal organizations that would be required to check the ICHAT system, and from the Michigan State Police, who would be administering the process.
The legislation is scheduled for action on the House floor later this week. Concurrent versions of the bills are on the Senate floor and awaiting a vote. I am meeting with Senate leadership this week to determine when this vote will take place. If you would like to help, please contact my office for further information at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free at (855) 427-8399.