Recently, a very special issue close to my heart was brought to me and I have decided to act on it.
Men and women have a special responsibility as good stewards of our planet. Proverbs 12:10 tells us "A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal." Mohanda Gandhi, a source of great inspiration to Martin Luther King, said "the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
Like many of you, I am an animal lover and pet owner. Our family owns a wonderful pit bull mix named Bailey. He brings much joy into our household. Nothing wrenches my heart more than when I see a sadistic case of animal abuse on the news. How anyone could hurt a defenseless animal is a mystery to me. How anyone could take in an animal as a pet or livestock and then not properly care for it causing the animal to suffer in neglect is something I will never understand.
Sadly, it pains me to say that there are just some people who cannot be trusted with an animal. And when we find out who they are through a previous conviction, they should never be allowed to place another animal in danger again.
I have introduced House Bill 5403 to make Michigan the first state in the nation to enact an official Animal Abuse registry. Anyone convicted of a crime of animal abuse would be placed on this state registry and people buying or adopting animals would be checked to make sure they have no record of animal abuse.
This program would protect innocent animals that cannot protect themselves from being sold or adopted by persons with known records of animal abuse. This program would largely pay for itself through an annual fee paid for by the persons on the list.
I have been working with experts from many fields including law enforcement officers, attorneys, operators of animal shelters, the pet store industry, as well as animal owners and advocates to make sure we not only have the best bill possible, but one which will also pass the Legislature and be signed into law by the governor. We have support from both Democrats and Republicans for this bill. I have received hundreds of emails and letters from people supporting the bill.
The program would be used by any citizen, breeder, shelter or business selling or placing an animal for adoption. Most of the program involves only computer software and technology and would not be any significant expense to the state or the taxpayers.
Each year, hundreds of animals are killed or maimed by sadistic people. Many of these are continual and repeat offenders who are not deterred by minor penalties. There is a solid connection between people who abuse animals and people who commit violence against persons. Some expert studies show that over 50 percent of battered women reported their partner also harmed their pet.
In addition, there is a long list of infamous serial killers who started abusing animals and graduated to killing people. That list includes the Columbine killers, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and Washington, D.C. sniper Lee Malvo.
There are some who simply do not like the idea of any type of registry. They say that people are wrongly included on them. Our bill speaks to that and provides a quick remedy to remove anyone who does not belong on it. Others have suggested this would be a financial burden to small business and we are addressing that also with a provision which largely allows the law to pay for itself.
As an elected official, it is part of my mission to speak for those who do not have a voice in Lansing. We must defend and protect those who cannot protect themselves.