Bill to create animal abuser registry moves forward

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — At the Richmond SPCA, there are dozens of dogs and cats in need of a good home. Yet for some shelters and rescue groups, it can be difficult to know who they’re handing that animal over to.

“Background checks are definitely done for staff and volunteers, but not all organizations can manage that for every potential adopter they meet,” Tabitha Treloar with the Richmond SPCA explained.

A bill introduced by Senator Bill Stanley would create a registry of those convicted of acts of felony animal cruelty. It would be similar to the sex offender registry in that the list of abusers would be posted for all to view on the State Police website.

Stanley says it’s a great tool for shelters.

“This would allow them to check the background of potential adopters,” the senator said.

The Richmond SPCA and Virginia Federation of Humane Societies agree and see it an aide for pet owners as well.

“For consumers who are hiring sitters, hiring dog walkers to have a bit more confidence in the individual who they are entrusting with their pet,” Treloar said.

But some say the state can’t afford the legislation. The bill calls for a $50 conviction fee to maintain the list. State Police has said that won’t be enough to cover the costs.

Still, it’s not a new concept. States like Tennessee and New York already have similar registries and lawmakers in Massachusetts are now considering a similar bill.

“Having an additional tool in the toolbox is always an asset and one that we would welcome,” Treloar added.

The registry would include only the names of those convicted of felony animal cruelty on or after July1, 2018. The bill would also require State Police to remove a person from the registry after 15 years, barring there are no other animal cruelty convictions in that time period.

The bill unanimously passed a Senate Committee.

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