Genesee Co. proposes ballot initiative to protect pets

Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson and other officials are proposing a new statewide initiative to protect pets.
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 5:10 PM EDT
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GENESEE CO., Mich. (WNEM) - Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson and other officials proposing a new statewide initiative to protect pets.

This comes in the wake of a recent spike of animal abuse cases. Now, law officials are calling for tougher protocols to be in place to protect animals.

“The option to do nothing is over, it’s not an option. So, we’re going to hold them accountable,” Swanson said.

Members of law enforcement, public officials, and animal welfare advocates met on Friday, March 17 to announce the Protect MI Pets Animal Abuse Initiative.

The 2024 ballot initiative will allow Michigan voters to decide whether to create a public, statewide, searchable registry of convicted animal abusers.

“A lot of people don’t realize it, but it just became a felony within the last decade or so that animal abuse is punishable, which is anything over a year equals a felony that you can be punished up to. All before that it was just misdemeanors,” said Deborah Schutt, chair of the Michigan Pet Alliance. “And I’m sure in a lot of towns when crimes aren’t that severe, you know all crimes are serious obviously, especially for the people it happens to, they don’t get prosecuted as aggressively as they probably should be.”

If approved, the name of every convicted animal abuser in Michigan will be publicly accessible to everyone, including animal shelters, rescues, law enforcement, breeders, and the concerned public. It will also decrease the amount of time that seized animals must spend in confinement while legal cases play out in the court.

“This is what the ballot is going to help do is change the concept that right now, the animals are not considered victims for purposes of sentencing,” Schutt said. “And animals are not just property. I understand in a legal sense they can’t vote; you know those types of things like that. But they’re still living. So, this is a concept we’re trying to raise awareness about as well with this ballot.”

If approved, the ballot would remove convicted animal abusers’ right to own pets.

The group will hold a public virtual meeting Monday, March 20 to discuss the initiative.

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