Local activists push for proposal to create animal abuser registry

Activists are working toward a new proposal that offers protections for pets.
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 10:23 PM EDT
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MID-MICHIGAN (WNEM) - Activists are working toward a new proposal that offers protections for pets.

The organization leading the campaign aims to create a statewide registry for convicted animal abusers.

According to Protect MI Pets website, state police reported that animal abuse is up four times since 2016. In the wake of this recent spike, law enforcement, public officials, and animal welfare advocates came together to get a statewide initiative to protect animals on the ballot for the 2024 election cycle.

“Animals are our most vulnerable population. They can’t speak out for themselves. They can’t call 911 and ask for help. So, we have to do more to protect those animals,” said Tanya Hilgendorf, vice chair of Michigan Pet Alliance.

Hilgendorf and other local officials want Michigan voters to help them implement a statewide registry of animal abusers to try to prevent them from owning another pet.

“A ballot initiative that’s going to say, ‘Do you want people that are convicted of animal abuse, neglect, torture, starvation to be identified for those rescues and shelters and those that are out there to know that they’ve already been convicted of this horrific crime?’ said Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson. “There has to be someplace that folks can go without costing them that they can say, ‘I’m just about to adopt this pet to so-and-so. Let me look them up real quick.’”

Placement on the registry would be temporary and include the person’s name, picture, and offense. People would be able to see if the person they are giving an animal to for adoption, fostering, or care has ever been convicted of animal abuse.

“We’ve prosecuted somebody who runs a pet store, a breeder, a groomer, somebody who runs a boarding facility for horses,” said Hilgendorf. “In all of those cases, you would want to know, ‘Am I trusting someone with my pet.’”

The initiative also would change the state’s forfeiture process to decrease the amount of time the abused animal must spend at a shelter while the case is being prosecuted.

“We recently did a report and showed 25 animals were in our care for 11,000 days,” Hilgendorf said.

“What we need to change is the connotation that animals are property. And I think that that’s another issue that we have is that in terms of the law, although we as people see them as living, in the eyes of the law, they’re not,” said Assistant Genesee County Prosecutor Alena Clark.

To get the initiative on the ballot, the group needs to collect 750,000 signatures if they can’t get the legislature to vote to add it to the ballot.

They will kick off the signature campaign on April 11 in Lansing.

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