A bill that would require those convicted of animal abuse to register with the state — similar to sex offenders — may currently be stalled, but its sponsor plans keep moving it forward through other avenues so it becomes law.

House Bill 2310 sponsored by Rep. Steve Farley (D-Tucson), failed to advance out of the Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee last week, and therefore wasn’t on the Judiciary Committee’s agenda for review.

However, Farley said that he still hopes to advance the bill as a form of amendment to another one before the legislative session is scheduled to end in April.

The bill proposes that people convicted of animal abuse be required to register for a year after the first offense. If a person is convicted a second time, they would be on the animal abuser registry for life.

Numerous animal agencies are supporting the bill that stemmed from a Tucson woman’s dog being attacked by two pit bulls last summer, costing the dog’s owner $12,000 in veterinary bills to help the dog recover. No one claimed ownership of the dogs which were scarred and appeared to have been used in dog fighting, Farley said.

“The bill really does have a lot of momentum and support from organizations and we need to keep it moving forward,” Farley said.

Concerns had been raised by Humane Society officials about how the registry would be funded, enforced, and who would be required to register. But, the Humane Society would use it, with the hopes that there would be a mandate that all animal welfare groups who adopt out animals be required to use it, said Bretta Nelson, spokeswoman for the Arizona Humane Society.

“The bill just needs a few clarifications, but it could be a great thing,” Nelson said. “Right now, we have a lengthy adoption application process that takes about 30 to 45 minutes, but the way we’re set up now, we can’t do a criminal background check on someone applying to adopt a pet.”

Farley said the Animal Legal Defense Fund agreed to pay the start-up costs for the registry, estimated to be about $10,000, and he encourages anyone interested in supporting the bill to write or email their state legislators.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety would be in charge of the database, which could be searched online by the public. The registry would be a valuable tool to pet shops and pet rescue groups reviewing a potential pet adoptee’s background. The registry would include the offender’s picture, address, and type of offense they were convicted of which includes:

• Cruelty to animals

• Animal fighting

• Presence at animal fight

• Cockfighting

• Presence at a cockfight

• Cruel and inhumane confinement of a pig during pregnancy or of a calf raised for veal

• Equine tripping

According to the bill, before a person is released from custody, law enforcement agencies will have to complete the registration of any person convicted of a violation.

Parallel to the high numbers of foreclosures of homes happening throughout the Valley in recent years, Jodi Polanski, executive director of the Lost Our Home Pet Foundation which rescues pets being left behind due to foreclosures, said it supports such a registry and that homeowners who leave their pets behind instead of seeking a new home or shelter for them also should be included on the registry.

“I definitely think anyone who leaves a pet behind should be registered,” Polanski said. “Abandonment is a form of abuse because it’s basically leaving a pet behind to die. A pet that dies from starvation after abandonment is just as bad as a pet that dies from another form of abuse. The pet has been hurt and suffered because of a human’s actions.

“Right now, there is no centralized list anywhere for a rescue or the county to reference when someone is applying to adopt a pet,” Polanski added. “Having a registry will make it more difficult for someone who has abused an animal to get another one ... If it helps keep any animal abuser from getting another animal, it is worth it. Animal lovers can be very passionate about pets and I know that pictures of abusers will be passed around Facebook and email blasts, and there will be a lot of shame associated with it.”

Colorado and Maryland are among states that have introduced similar legislation encouraged by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization that works to promote animal protection.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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