Lawmakers want to create registry of convicted animal abusers

By Emily Ketterer
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — Three lawmakers from the Indiana House and Senate filed bills that would help prevent convicted animal abusers from adopting pets again.

Senate Bills 432 and 505 and House Bill 1576 would create a public online registry of convicted animal abusers, as defined under Indiana law.

Hazel is a dog up for adoption at the Indianapolis Humane Society. She was brought into the shelter in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds. Photo submitted by The Humane Society of Indianapolis.

While door-knocking during his campaign, author of SB 432, Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, listened to concerns about the amount of animal abuse in the state. He drew from different sources, including reading stories about Justice, a Shelby County dog that was severely burned and abandoned in November.

Ford hopes that creating an online database will provide shelters, private rescues and pet stores with an extra tool to make sure they know who is adopting their animals.

“I wanted to do something advance the conversation about how we are protecting animals in our state,” Ford said. “It’s not the end-all be-all, but it’s a start.”

Colleen Benson, director of shelter behavior for the Indianapolis Human Society, said the shelter receives many animals who come from abuse, both physically and emotionally. She said shelters will benefit from having this extra protection for their animals.

“We work so hard to find the best placement for animals, and we care so much for them,” Benson said. “It probably isn’t going to solve the issue, but it will make sure animals are not put back in abusive homes.”

Other areas such as Tennessee and New York City have adopted similar online databases, and if passed, Indiana’s registry would model those, Ford said. The public registry would provide a description of the abuse along with the name, age, last known address and a recent photo of the convicted abusers.

Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, also filed SB 505, which nearly matches Ford’s bill. The only difference is the dates in which the law would be enacted, either in 2019 or not until 2020.

Ford and Merritt said they are open to work together to possibly combine their bills and try to get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but both senators have not had time to communicate yet.

“He’s a good man,” Merritt said. “We work well together.”

The two lawmakers also hope that this bill would not only protect animals but people too. Research shows that 71 to 83 percent people who abuse animals also abuse humans, according to the United States Human Society.

“Abused animals, the abusers don’t stop there,” Ford said.

The senators agree that the legislation needs to be passed this session.

“We hear way too many stories of horrific treatment of animals,” Merritt said. “It’s absolutely important we have some sort of handle on people who have been convicted.”

Emily Ketterer is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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