Lawmaker's bill would require animal abuser registry

State senator proposes levy on pet food for funding.

February 24, 2010 

N24_Abuse

SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG This female oneyear-old lab mix puppy, was found out int he county with a dislocated right leg. The legislation trying to get felony animal abusers into register like sex offenders do.

MARCI STENBERG — Merced Sun-Star

A bill penned by a Central Valley politician would require the names of California felony animal abusers to be placed in a registry, like sex offenders and arsonists.

Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, introduced the bill Monday. He's hoping it will help stop not just animal abuse, but abuse done to people as well.

"There's no doubt animal abuse can lead to people abuse," Florez said. "High-profile serial killers, like Jeffrey Dahmer, abused animals before moving up the chain to abuse or kill other humans."

Lisa Franzetta, spokeswoman for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said it's well known that animal abusers escalate into committing violent crimes against people.

"We drafted a model that would provide for mandatory registration and community notification of convicted animal abusers," Franzetta said. "We have been consulting closely with Sen. Florez."

Florez said animal abuse is especially bad in the Central Valley. He said the biggest problem has been with hoarders, people who keep more than usual numbers of animals as pets, without having the means to take care of those animals. Some hoarders have been found with hundreds of animals, often living in appalling conditions, Florez said.

"We've had a lot of convicted hoarders moving into the Valley," Florez said. "There's no way to find out about these people until it's too late."

The legislation, if passed, wouldn't use state money to fund the bill, but instead would put a levy on pet food.

Florez is asking for a levy of three cents a pound of pet food, which he said figures out to about $1.50 a year for the owner of one cat.

"We are asking people who have animals to participate in making sure there is some sort of protection for animals," Florez said.

The bill would require only those convicted of felony animal abuse to register, and only people over the age of 18 would have to register.

Felony abuse of animals includes violence against animals, sexual abuse of animals, torture, mutilation, animal fighting and hoarding.

"We aren't the first state to propose this," Florez said. "The state of Washington has done the same, asking for the same amount of levy on pet food."

And if there was any money left over from the pet food levies, Florez said it would go to county and city animal shelters to help start spay and neuter programs.

David Robinson, agriculture commissioner for the county and head of the county's animal shelter, is sitting on the fence about the proposed legislation.

"If the legislation does what it proposes, it would be helpful," he said.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com.

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