The Pasco County Commission has approved new regulations to make it harder for convicted animal abusers to buy or adopt cats and dogs in the county.
But, those measures fall far short of what’s needed, a trio of animal rights advocates said during a Jan. 10 public hearing. They advocate the adoption of an animal abuser registry.
The county’s program will be “nothing more than a list on a website,” said John Marinello of the Alliance to Save 90.
Alliance to Save 90 is a Hillsborough County-based coalition that supports no-kill policies at animal shelters. Its goal is to save 90 percent of shelter populations from euthanasia.
County commissioners said a statewide registry is the better solution but, until legislation is passed, the new ordinance will help.
“We need to show we’re part of this now,” said Pasco County Chairman Mike Moore. “We can do something stricter later.”
Beginning March 1, to knowingly transfer a cat or dog to a convicted animal abuser will be a violation of county code.
The Pasco County Clerk of Court’s office will provide a link on its website of people convicted of animal abuse after March 1. Individuals or organizations that sell or adopt cats or dogs must document that they checked the link prior to the sale or adoption of a dog or cat. Records must be kept for five years.
Farm animals and service animals, including miniature horses trained to work with disabled people, are excluded from the ordinance. And, because the website link will rely on “other sources” for data, the county can’t guarantee the link’s accuracy or completeness.
No penalties are included in the ordinance, but county commissioners are expected at a later meeting to adopt a fine of up to $500 for violations. Citations would be issued for violations.
The commission unanimously approved the ordinance.
Marinello was one of three speakers during public comment to ask commissioners to reconsider and approve a registry.
Lutz-based veterinarian Betsy Coville and Land O’ Lakes resident Rebecca Foss also spoke against the amended ordinance.
An earlier draft of the ordinance included an animal abuser registry. But, at a Nov. 29 public hearing, county staff members cited problems with implementing a local registry, and recommended adoption of the scaled-back regulations.
The revised ordinance also was amended to cover cats and dogs only.
“They can go ahead and abuse a bunny rabbit, and they will find one and do it,” said Coville, who is a member of Save 90’s advisory board.
Foss said that a “true, strong registry is needed.”
The links between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence is well-documented, and a registry offers law enforcement protections, Foss said.
A registry approved in Hillsborough requires in-person registration that provides an address, photograph and other personal information. Anyone on the registry is banned from owning or living in a home with animals.
However, some Hillsborough County commissioners cited the need for a state registry.
Moore took the three speakers to task for waiting until the final hearing to object. But, he also offered some advice.
“I implore you to keep talking to your state legislators to put something forward,” Moore said.
Following the public hearing, Coville said she and others expected commissioners to approve the registry item that was posted in the Nov. 29 agenda. They were surprised by the last-minute substitution, she said.
State legislators failed to approve a statewide registry in 2012. That bill, known as Dexter’s law, was about as weak as Pasco’s ordinance, Coville said.
But, she hopes that Rep. Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill will file a registry bill for the 2017 session. The state lawmaker’s staff said he is contemplating such a bill, but had no further information.
Coville said she has helped to win approvals for registry ordinances in Hillsborough and Marion counties. She is pushing now for registries in Manatee and Miami-Dade counties, and eventually in Sarasota County.
“Once you have several counties passing these, (state legislation) is easier,” Coville said.
Revised January 19, 2017