Online Registry for Animal Abusers Proposed in California

February 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A Valley Legislator wants local police to begin tracking animal abusers. The bill, proposed by Senator Dean Florez, would work in a similar way to Megan's law which tracks the whereabouts of sex offenders.Convicted animal abusers would be required to register with law enforcement and their picture and information would be found online. The bill is projected to cost about a million dollars -- paid for by pet owners.

The Valley Animal Center in Fresno is home to hundreds of abandoned cats and dogs. Many of the animals arrive at the shelter after suffering extreme abuse.

"We get animals daily and weekly," said Shelter Manager Ralph Elliot. "We have an animal in there with no eyes that someone had chained on a porch."

Elliot believes a registry for animal abusers would give animals a voice and possible curtail abuse -- that often goes unpunished. "They either move, or they just take the animals from them -- and they just start all over again. They go somewhere else and they just start the cycle all over again."

The bill by Senator Dean Florez would require convicted abusers to register with law enforcement. Their name, picture, address and even place of employment would be available to anyone online -- a useful tool for pet adoption centers or shelters.

Senator Flores said, "The practical goal is to make sure we can find whether someone has been convicted of animal abuse and whether we want these sold to that person."

John Shafer, owner of Whitie's Pets in Fresno said he supports the registry -- but isn't thrilled that it would be paid for by pet owners. Florez has proposed a 2-3 cent fee on pet food.

Shafer said, "I support it on a moral basis, but not on a taxation."

Chris Mathys of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said imposing a fee or tax when so many are out of work --- is simply a bad idea. "Yet another tax creates another layer of expense that frankly the people in the neighborhoods that are trying to make it, just can't afford."

The exact amount of the pet food fee has not yet been establish -- but Senator Florez said any excess funds would go towards spay and neutering programs.

If passed, the animal abuse registry would be the first of its kind in the country.