GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. — A coalition of law enforcement, public officials and animal welfare advocates introduced a 2024 ballot initiative that would create a statewide animal abuse registry, plus would allow seized animals to find loving homes faster.
The group held a virtual news conference Friday to announce the initiative, as well as future events.
Sheriff Chris Swanson of the Genesee County Sheriff's Office says he's seen it all when it comes to the abuse, neglect, starvation and torture of animals.
"I did a story where a dog was starved to death and it yelped and screamed for over two weeks before it died in its cage. It was a service dog," said Swanson.
Swanson, Assistant Genessee County Prosecutor Alena Clark, and the Michigan Pet Alliance formed a coalition around ten months ago to create the Protect MI Pet 2024 ballot initiative.
If approved, the names of convicted animal abusers in the state will be accessible to animal shelters, rescues, law enforcement, breeders and the public.
"Obviously we have to be mindful of people's privacy and things like that which is why we're going to require some tweaking, but ideally it would be run exactly the same way as the website through the sex offender registry," said Clark.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker has seen severe animal neglect cases.
"We get more outcry for an animal abuse case than we do for a child abuse cases," said Becker. "When they come to our attention, we follow up with them just like we would any other cases because it does have a deep and lasting effect on the community when they hear cases like this."
Seized animals are considered property and some will spend a long time in shelters while legal cases play out in court, so this initiative would also get these animals home within 22 days of a probable cause hearing.
"I think there's something desperately needed to try to correct that. Keeping dogs in there for weeks, months and even years. That's not good for the animal and not good for shelter quite frankly in terms of the cost," said Becker.
He believes a registry won't stop individuals from abusing animals entirely as the sex offender registry doesn't stop sex offender cases.
Though the goal is for people donating or adopting pets to have an added layer of protection.
The coalition will be hosting a statewide panel discussion on March 20 which is free and open to the public. To register, click here.
On April 11, which is National Pet Day, the coalition will host a rally at the state capital in Lansing.
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