(ANIMAL LAWS) A recently proposed Michigan bill has the potential to make nationwide history as it would create the first state registry for convicted animal abusers, much like the Country’s current registry for sex offenders. If legislated, the law would ensure that animals be kept out of the hands of individuals incapable of providing loving care for them. Proving to be a major step forward for animal rights, this bill could strengthen the bonds between pets and their companions. Continue reading below to find out how this bill could change animal’s lives, and keep animals far away from abusers. — Global Animal
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A bill that could establish the country’s first statewide animal abusers registry has its roots in Grand Rapids.
Earlier this month, state Reps. Paul Muxlox and Harvey Santana introduced a bill that would create a sex offender-type registry for anyone convicted of animal abuse. The idea, in part, came from the work of Thomas M. Cooley law student Renee Edmondson, who helped write a majority of the law.
“It’s going to keep some animals out of the abusers’ hands,” Edmondson said of the registry. “And you might save someone from human violence down the road.”
The bill, H.B. 4535, would force anyone convicted of dog fighting, animal neglect or other animal cruelty crimes to register within five days of sentencing or his or her release from jail or prison. Anyone relocating to Michigan with similar convictions in other states must register within 21 days of moving. People will remain on the registry for five years.
Under the law, animal shelters or adoption agencies are mandated to check the registry and cannot adopt out a pet to someone on it. Pet shops, breeders and the public will also have access to the registry, including photos of the convicted animal abusers. Edmondson said breeders and pet shops support the law but a mandate on private businesses could be toxic in the current legislature.
Muxlox, R-Brown City, and Santana, D-Detroit, introduced the bill on April 10. It was referred the state house Judiciary Committee. Both feel the legislation, named Logan’s Law in honor of a husky who had acid thrown in his face, has a strong chance of passing through the legislature.
Similar bills have been tried before and have stalled, said Chris Zavisa, the chief of staff for Santana. Logan’s Law has bipartisan support. There is also a plan to fund the registry. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a California-based animal advocacy group, has pledged $10,000 to start the registry, said Zavisa and Edmondson. Zavisa estimated the registry would cost about $8,000 to start and fund for the first year. After that, the animal fees paid by registrants will fund the system. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, which already has a dedicated Animal Protection Unit, has agreed to manage the registry, Muxlow said.
“We’re not looking for more regulation, but we’re also not looking for more abuse either,” Muxlow said. “There are a lot of animal lovers and supporters out there. I think they’ll get behind this.”
Similar registries already exist in some counties in New York, Zavisa said. No state has a statewide registry.
Without knowing it would someday become a bill, Edmondson began working on the animal abuse registry in 2011. Edmondson and fellow Cooley law student Danielle Dawson, who together funded the school’s Animal Law Society, drafted a framework for the registry after suggesting it to a Grand Rapids attorney. The looked at the sex offender and child abuser registries, mashed them together and created the animal abuser registry, Edmondson said.
A few months later, Feb. 2012, Santana introduced similar legislation on the house floor. Surprised, Edmondson read it, noticed some holes and had ideas to make it stronger. She called Santana’s office, and the lawmaker quickly invited her out to Lansing to work with his staff. Santana, an animal lover himself, was moved to create the registry after Andrew Thompson, a former Michigan State University medical student, brutally killed 12 greyhound puppies. Thompson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation.
“Basically, there’s nothing to stop Andrew Thompson from walking into a pet store and getting another dog,” Zavisa said.
At the same time, Muxlow was working on early versions of Logan’s Law. As the 2012 legislative session drew to a close, both bills started to die. The two representatives decided to cross the aisle and present a unified bill early in the 2013 session.
The bill was introduced in time for Humane Lobby Day, April 16, when animal rights activists converge on Lansing to talk to representatives and senators about legislation. Jen Aulgur, director of education and community programs at the Humane Society of West Michigan, said news of the registry was buzzing among advocates. She said the registry would be a big help to her organization.
“If someone comes in and has a history of animal abuse, we would have no way of knowing,” Aulgur said. “Any step that we can take to help prevent it from happening again is a good law.”
The registry could prevent future animal abuse and violence toward humans, Edmondson said. There is a strong correlation between animal and human abuse, she said. In February, the Animal Law Society invited Phil Arkow, who has studied the connection between animal abuse and domestic violence and child abuse, to speak in Grand Rapids on the topic.
Edmondson has always been an animal lover and would bring home stray cats when she was young. She hopes to continue working with the legislature and to further animal rights after her graduation in May.
“It allows me to protect animals, to stand up for animals, to be the voice they don’t have,” she said.