Organization wants animal abusers to register like sex offenders

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(Source: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) (Source: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

By Michael Cadigan

LEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFTX) --  A law that requires people convicted of animal abuse to join a database, modeled after sex offender registries, is gaining popularity across the country.

An animal abuse registry has already been implemented in several municipalities, including Hillsborough County, Florida. The tool can be used by shelters and breeders to help ensure pets find good homes.

Advocacy groups like the Animal Abuse Registry Movement are pushing for a statewide law, notifying sellers and breeders of convicted abusers. However, similar legislation failed last year. 

Laura Braun from the Animal Refuge Center in North Fort Myers said the law could help make the adoption process easier.

"To have a more formal approach to being able to get some background on potential adopters will streamline the adoption process," Braun said.

Shelters in Lee county currently use a 'Do not adopt' list to check on animal abuse convictions. Braun says a database would make the process go a lot smoother if an animal abuse registry system is implemented in this part of the state.

"We've taken in animals that have come from less than perfect situations," said Braun. "Being able to check up on where we are placing our animals will be very helpful," she added.

Dog owners in Cape Coral are on board with this tool.

"I think every individual should be able to know where to find them," said Michael Schmidt. "Just like child abusers and sex abusers, we should know who and where they are so you can avoid them," he added.

4 In Your Corner reached out to local governments to see if and when animal abuse registries would be set up.

Collier County has a reporting system in place, but it's not instant. You'd be able to access the information through public records.

Leaders in Cape Coral, Estero, and Bonita Springs are aware of the law. They say it's up to the county to implement a database like the one up in Hillsborough County.

Charlotte County says they have a draft ordinance to set up an animal abuse registry. The animal control manager says he hopes to submit the ordinance to the county attorney's office by mid-January.

Dog owners hope the idea becomes law everywhere.

"I hope it becomes a national program," says Bob Hite. "A sex offender has to register in Florida, Michigan, or wherever else they go. I think animal abusers should carry that brand wherever they go," he added.

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