• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Bill proposes animal-abuse registry Web site

February 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
California may soon treat animal abusers the way it does sex offenders. Lawmakers are looking to establish an animal-abuse registry.State lawmakers are considering a proposal to establish an online registry that provides specific information about convicted animal abusers, including their home addresses.

If the bill passes, the registry would be the first of its kind in the nation.

Some pet owners praise the intent of this bill. But it would be pet owners who would pay for it.

From pit bulls that are trained to fight to kittens that are burned and abandoned, there are penalties for animal abusers. Yet advocates for animals want more: a statewide Web site similar to one that identifies child predators.

"This bill specifically would say, 'Any person over 18 years of age convicted of felony animal abuse would have to register with local law enforcement,'" said state Senator Dean Florez (D-Fresno).

Proposed by Florez, Senate Bill 1277 would make that registry public. It would require the state to post a photograph, physical description and an address of the animal abuser.

"I think we need to have something that will stop the abuse of pets," said dog owner Deon Derrico. "And if that's the only way they can allocate funds to do it, I think that's a very good idea.'

Yet there is a "bite" to this bill. The cost for maintaining the Web site would be passed to consumers, specifically to dog and cat owners.

Every sack of dog chow and every morsel of cat food would be slapped with a tax, as much as 3 cents per pound.

"The food I spend on my dog, it's close to let's say like $50 to $60 per month," said dog owner Ray Aguilar.

"It's not really likely that you're going to go on the Internet and look up this person and this person's a pet abuser," said dog owner Maryann Yezadyan. "We have the watchdog Web site that tells us about sex offenders on our Web sites, and there's people that live in our area but still, we don't memorize their faces or look out for them."

But Florez points to 2008's California Ballot Proposition 2. Sympathy for animals won reforms to give hens and other caged animals more room in their cages.

Florez believes Senate Bill 1277 would harness anger against the pet abusers, especially repeat offenders.

"It would ensure the safety of pets everywhere," said Derrico. "At least within the state."

"I feel like this is just going to be money out of our pockets and taxpayers, and our hard-earned money is going to go for something that's probably not even going to be useful," said Yezadyan.

The bill may face opposition from civil libertarians. The American Civil Liberties Union has in the past fought Web sites for sex offenders. ACLU attorneys have not reviewed the measure yet.

It was just introduced to the state senate, so it has a long way to go.