Bipartisan, bicameral legislation introduced to crack down on animal abusers

LANSING—Four lawmakers on Wednesday re-introduced legislation in a bipartisan, bicameral effort to keep animals out of the hands of convicted animal abusers.

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge; Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit; Rep. Paul Muxlow, R-Brown City; and Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, joined forces last year to form a unified front on cracking down on animal abuse in Michigan.

“As a former sheriff I have unfortunately seen a lot of animal abuse,” Jones said. “This legislation will make sure that once a person has victimized an animal they will not be allowed easy access to another victim.”

Santana said the subject of the bills is an excellent opportunity to work together with all of his legislative colleagues.

“There are no Republican dogs or Democratic cats,” Santana said. “The issue of animal abuse reaches across party lines and concerns people on both sides of the aisle. Having legislators from both parties and both chambers just makes sense.”

The measures are Senate Bills 219 and 220 and House Bills 4353 and 4355.

Under the bills, people convicted of animal abuse crimes would be placed into the Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT) database – a system set up and maintained by the Michigan State Police to allow the public to search for criminal offenders. Animal shelters and animal control organizations would have access to the ICHAT system free of charge and would be required to check it prior to adopting out an animal. If a person is found to have been convicted of an animal abuse offense within the past five years, the organization would be prohibited from releasing the animal to that person.

Bieda pointed out that this legislation would not only protect animals throughout Michigan, but could prevent human violence as well. Bieda said, “There is well-documented evidence of a connection between animal abuse and human violence. Many serial killers have admitted that they started torturing and killing animals before they moved on to their human victims. With the passage of this legislation, we may be preventing human violence in the future.”

The bills would also require a person convicted of an animal abuse offense to be prohibited from owning animals for a period of five years.

“It is our duty to protect Michigan’s animals,” Muxlow said. “I decided to be a sponsor on this bill package after my office was contacted about a dog, Logan, having acid thrown on his face. How a person can do that to another living being is beyond me. And if it can happen in Port Huron, it can happen anywhere in our state.”

Last session, the bill package made it through both House and Senate committees but died during lame duck on the Senate floor. All four legislators are hopeful and optimistic that this session, the bills will make it to the governor’s desk.

“We had a lot of support for this bill package from both sides of the aisle last session,” Santana said. “We’ve worked with all the stakeholders, and I firmly believe our colleagues will understand the importance and need for this legislation.”