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Bill would create animal abusers registry

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

RICHMOND — Senate Bill 32 proposes to create a public animal cruelty registry to highlight “persons convicted of a felony” involving pets, police dogs and more, for consideration in the 2014 General Assembly session.
State Sen. Bill Stanley, who represents Galax and part of Carroll County, authored the bill that will go before the legislators when they convene later this month, according to the proposal’s text.

The legislation, if approved, orders the Virginia State Police superintendent to create a database that would detail certain felony convictions involving animals.
The bill instructs the state police to include seven kinds of convictions in the registry, including:
• “failure to control a dangerous dog resulting in serious human injury”
• failure to control a vicious dog should it result in a serious injury to a person
• cruelty to animals in general
• facilitating animal fighting
• “maiming, killing or poisoning an animal”
• injuring or killing an animal used in police work
• or other state and federal laws involving animals.
The database would list the name and address of the offenders, the conviction and the place where the offense occurred, according to the bill.
The bill outlines a process in which a person can “request removal of his name” from the database after 15 years, if he has not had additional felony animal offenses.
The bill has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources.
Laurie Merry, president of the Twin County Humane Society, harkened back to an incident last year when a cat was duct-taped with a cigarette in its mouth and a separate report of a cat being beheaded to illustrate why she supported the creation of such a databank.
Authorities like animal control officers need to be able to access information about abusers, she said.
New York is also trying to establish an animal abusers registry, as Merry understands it.
“To me, it’s a courageous step for [Stanley],” she said. “I think that’s wonderful, if we can get that accomplished.”
Some people might start out acting aggressively towards animals, but they probably won’t stop there.
“When people start doing abusive things to animals, they typically turn around and start doing it to humans,” Merry said.
After learning about the proposed database, Merry wanted to get in touch with officials with the Virginia Federation of Humane Society to lobby for and support the passage of SB 32.
Humane Society officials would also like to see the General Assembly come up with laws requiring spaying and neutering of pets and prohibiting companion animals from being chained up in yards, Merry said.