Bipartisan bills would crack down on animal abusers

LANSING — The Michigan Senate Thursday approved legislation that would allow animal control organizations and pet shelters to perform criminal history background checks on potential owners, said Sen. John Proos.

“As a dog owner, it is difficult to understand the mindset of someone who would abuse a pet or engage in dog fighting,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “I supported recent bipartisan legislation to help make sure that we are doing everything we can to keep animals out of the hands of convicted animal abusers. Once a person has victimized a pet, they should not be allowed easy access to another victim.”

Senate Bill 220 would allow nonprofit animal shelters and animal control organizations to access the Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT) database free of charge. The groups could use the ICHAT system to perform a name-based search of an individual’s criminal history when deciding whether to allow the person to adopt an animal.

“Under this initiative, nonprofit organizations that adopt out pets will have free access to a tool that allows them to see the criminal history of animal abusers and stop an adoption before it is too late,” Proos said. “This could also help reduce the number of animals available for dog fighting, which is thriving underground in big-stakes matches.”

Under SB 219, if a person is convicted of animal abuse offenses, the court shall, as a condition of probation, order the offender to not own or possess an animal for a period of time. The court would be required to prohibit repeat offenders from owning or possessing an animal for at least five years after the sentencing date or the date of release from incarceration, whichever is later.

“The purpose of these bills is to prevent easy adoption of dogs and cats at shelters by convicted abusers,” Proos said. “These steps could also help us prevent violence in our communities as well, since there is strong connection between a person abusing animals and then later moving on to human victims.”

The bills have been sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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