Bipartisan, bicameral legislation to crack down on animal abusers across Michigan

LANSING—Four lawmakers on Thursday saw their bipartisan, bicameral effort to keep animals out of the hands of convicted animal abusers gain momentum in the Michigan House.

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 this past October to form a unified front on cracking down on animal abuse in Michigan.

“As former sheriff, I have 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 feels the subject of the bills is an excellent opportunity to bond with all of his legislative colleagues in a bipartisan effort. Santana said, “There are no Republican dogs or Democratic cats. The issue of animal abuse reaches across party lines and concerns people on both sides. Having legislators from both parties and both chambers just makes sense.”

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 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 mandated to check it prior to adopting out an animal. If a person is found to have been convicted of an animal abuse offense, the organization would be prohibited from releasing the animal to that person.

Bieda points out that this legislation will not only protect animals throughout Michigan, but could prevent human violence as well. Bieda said, “There is well-documented evidence that there is 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 people convicted of animal abuse offenses to not own animals for a period of five years.

“It is our duty to protect Michigan’s adopted animals,” Muxlow said. “I decided to be a sponsor on this legislation after my office was contacted with the horrific news that a dog named Logan had acid thrown on his face. How a person can do that is beyond me. And if it can happen here in Blue Water area, it can happen anywhere in the state.”

The House package had testimony taken on it Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee. 

Santana expects the committee to vote on the bills next week before they move them to the full House chamber for a vote. The Senate package has already passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.

Bill numbers and their sponsors:
Senate Bill 378 (Bieda)
Senate Bill 386 (Jones)
Senate Bill 603 (Bieda)
Senate Bill 604 (Bieda)

House Bill 4534 (Muxlow)
House Bill 4755 (Santana)
House Bill 5062 (Santana)
House Bill 5061 (Santana)