Animal abuser registry coming to Hillsborough Co.

- Animal rescue groups have been asking for one for years, so after proposed legislation to create an animal abuse registry at the state level failed, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner moved to create a local registry.

On Thursday, commissioners voted 6-0 to move one step closer to creating the public database that would out abusers and prevent them from buying or adopting new victims.

The animal abuse registry would be similar to the the state's sex offender registry: allowing anyone to look up convicted abusers in Hillsborough County online.

"There's such a high correlation between people who abuse animals and those who abuse humans," said commissioner Beckner. "So it's extraordinarily important that we're able to identify where those abusers are located."

Under the proposal, breeders, pet stores and rescue organizations would also be required to check the registry before adopting or selling a pet to a potential owner. The Humane Society of Tampa Bay, which adopts out around 7,000 animals each year, says the registry will be a major asset.

"Now we'll know for sure," said CEO Sherry Silk. "We don't have the time or the money to do background checks on people, so this will make it very easy for our adoption councilors and for other smaller rescue groups as well. They can actually check to make sure they're not adopting to an animal abuser."

A public hearing to finalize the proposal will take place on July 20.

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