By Kathy Steele
Pasco County commissioners are poised to approve a new ordinance meant to make it harder for people to adopt or buy animals if they have been convicted of animal abuse.
But, if approved, the new regulations won’t be as tough as an early draft of the ordinance that would have created an animal abuser registry.
County commissioners got a preview of the weakened ordinance on Nov. 29 at the commissioners’ meeting in Dade City.
Commissioners are expected to vote on the matter at a public hearing on Jan. 10 at 1:30 p.m., also in Dade City.
“This provides an additional way we can protect and keep animals out of the hands of people convicted of certain animal violations,” said Kristi Sims, an assistant county attorney.
If approved, the ordinance would take effect March 1.
It would ban anyone from knowingly “transferring” an animal to an animal abuser.
Pasco County Clerk of Court and Comptroller Paula O’Neill has offered to post a link to her website, with local conviction data, as a resource to the public.
Individuals, retailers or organizations that sell or adopt animals must document that they checked the link to confirm that a potential owner isn’t a convicted animal abuser. Records would be maintained for five years and would be subject to examination upon request.
County staff members told commissioners there would be problems in creating a local registry in part because information on statewide animal abuse convictions isn’t publicly available. Also, they said clerical and IT capabilities to handle a registry aren’t available.
While some jurisdictions, including Hillsborough County, have approved registries, Pasco County staff members determined that the best option would be a statewide registry. However, in 2012, a bill in the Florida legislature to create such a registry failed.
Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore said a sponsor for a new registry bill is being sought for the upcoming legislative session.
“I think this is still a good solution,” he said of the website link. “Ultimately we’d like to use a statewide database. We need to be involved in the process. I’m comfortable with this.”
Revised on Dec. 9, 2016 to correct previous version.