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Animal cruelty registry proposed

State Sen. William Stanley is proposing that Virginia create a registry for people convicted of felony animal cruelty.

Senate Bill 32 will be assigned to the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources committee when the 2014 session of the General Assembly convenes on Wednesday.

As proposed, people required to register would have been convicted of felonies dealing with cruelty to animals; animal fighting; failing to control a dangerous dog resulting in serious human injury; maiming, killing or poisoning an animal; killing or injuring a police animal; and any similar laws nationwide.

The public registry would include the person’s name, address and conviction information. But, after 15 years, people could ask to have their information removed.

Directors of Fredericksburg-area animal rescue organizations interviewed on Thursday liked the idea and said it would help them evaluate applicants for adoption.

“A registry would be ideal,” said Joan Enoch who operates Country Cats Rescue in Spotsylvania County.

Kerry Hilliard, executive director of Rikki’s Refuge Animal Sanctuary in Orange County, sees it as one more tool to ensure that animals are protected when they leave local shelters.

Already, shelters circulate among themselves a “Do Not Adopt” list that includes people who have brought injured or neglected animals to the shelters or have a habit of adopting and then returning animals, both women said.

“We invest a lot in the animals,” Hilliard said. “We want them to get the best home possible and we want it to be a forever home.”

Fredericksburg Commonwealth’s Attorney LaBravia Jenkins said the idea makes sense, but she wasn’t sure the registry needed to be available to the general public.

“I think it should be available to professionals,” she said.

She said veterinarians, animal shelters and rescue groups would benefit from the information.

And she suggested the law should require groups offering animals for adoption to check the registry as part of the adoption process.

Jenkins recalled a case from her days as a deputy prosecutor that appears apt for the registry.

She said a woman had refused to feed and water several horses that had to be euthanized by authorities because of their condition.

“Those kinds of people certainly need to be flagged and should not have animals,” Jenkins said.

She also cautioned against creating too many registries.

“My concern is that these registries not be watered down so that there is one for everything,” she said.

The Virginia State Police superintendent would be tasked with establishing, organizing and maintaining the Animal Cruelty Registry under the proposal put forth by Stanley, a Republican who represents the 20th District, in Southside Virginia.

State police already oversee the state Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry. That registry has evolved over time and now requires more than 90 state employees to administer it, demonstrating that cost will be a factor in evaluating Stanley’s proposal.

State police have a Sex Offender Investigative Unit that operates statewide with five supervisors plus 40 troopers, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

Another 43 civilians assist the troopers to keep the registry updated on a timely basis. In addition, the state’s Department of Corrections probation and parole staff shares responsibility for validating the residency and employment information on all of Virginia’s violent and nonviolent convicted sex offenders.

THE PROPOSAL

Below is the text of Senate Bill 32, which would establish an Animal Cruelty Registry.

“The Superintendent of State Police shall establish, organize, and maintain within the Department of State Police a computerized Animal Cruelty Registry as a database of information regarding persons convicted of a felony violation of (i) failure to control a dangerous dog resulting in serious human injury as provided by § 3.2-6540; (ii) failure to control a vicious dog resulting in serious human injury as provided by § 3.2-6540.1; (iii) cruelty to animals as provided by § 3.2-6570; (iv) animal fighting as provided by § 3.2-6571; (v) maiming, killing, or poisoning an animal as provided by § 18.2-144; (vi) killing or injuring a police animal as provided by §18.2-144.1; or (vii) any substantially similar law of any other state or the United States. Information on the Registry shall include the name and address of the offender at the time of conviction as well as the offense for which the offender was convicted and the date and place of conviction. Access to the Animal Cruelty Registry shall be made available to the public on the website of the Department of State Police.

On a form promulgated by the Department of State Police, a person may request removal of his name and information from the Registry not less than 15 years after registration, provided he has no additional felony convictions of an offense listed in this section.”

 

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com

 

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