By Tamas Mondovics
Individuals convicted of animal abuse will no longer have a chance to adopt dogs or cats, thanks to a new ordinance recently approved by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).
According to County officials the new ordinance will help to identify as well as prevent convicted animal abusers from acquiring and owning animals, by means of a County Animal Abuser Registry.
The effort, spearheaded by Commissioner Kevin Beckner, will require registration of individuals who have been convicted of certain misdemeanor or felony animal abuse offenses in Hillsborough County.
“Most owners consider their pets to be family members,” Beckner said, adding that the registry not only protects animals, but it can identify and will hopefully prevent violence against humans, too. “I’m very proud of the new law.”
According to the ordinance, convicted offenders may not own, possess, live in the same home or on the same property, or work with a service animal unless otherwise provided in a court order. If a pet is to be adopted, pet retailers and shelters must require the person to sign an affidavit attesting that he or she is not listed on the Registry, County official said in a recent press release.
While the only ‘no’ vote for the registry came from Commissioner Stacy White, it was not for his unwillingness to support the its purpose.
White said that he wanted the draft ordinance that the board was considering to be further vetted by the Animal Advisory Committee.
“I actually support an animal abuser registry,” White said. “The board, however, decided to move forward with ordinance exactly as written.
White added that his vote against the draft ordinance amounted to a procedural issue.
“I’m glad we have an animal abuser registry in place I just wanted the ordinance language vetted a bit more.”
The new Registry can now be accessed by the public to prevent ownership by convicted abusers, and is also accessible by law enforcement agencies to keep tabs on violent individuals.
The Registry will contain the names, residence, photo and other related information of Abusers living in the county who are convicted of an Abuse Offense on or after November 1, 2016, the effective date of the ordinance. Visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org.