The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
By K.A. WAGONER - Staff Writer
A bill to establish an animal cruelty registry through the Department of Virginia State Police (VSP) has been continued until next year's session of the Virginia General Assembly.
The legislation, SB32, introduced by State Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Glade Hill), would require the VSP superintendent to establish and maintain an animal cruelty registry for public access on the VSP website.
The registry would include the names and addresses of persons convicted of certain felony animal cruelty offenses, such as animal fighting and maiming, killing or poisoning animals.
The bill passed in the Senate Ag, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, but was continued in the Senate Finance Committee, where all bills that affect the budget must also be approved.
The estimated fiscal impact would include $838,532 in 2015 to establish the registry and $283,332 each consecutive year to maintain it.
Stanley said he believes the estimate is far too high, but after discussions with the Humane Society of the United States, he will amend the bill to authorize the state police to release the information to the Humane Society, which will then create and maintain a website of animal cruelty offenders.
"The public has a right to know when someone has committed such a heinous act of cruelty, especially those people who adopt out animals," Stanley said. "This information should be readily accessible in one place."
"Research shows a link between the treatment of animals and the early identification of violent criminals," added Stanley, who is an attorney. "History shows that people who commit crimes against animals often do the same to people."
Animal cruelty is often one of the first symptoms of a child at risk for developing antisocial and aggressive behavioral disorders, according to the National Sheriff's Association. There is a scientifically proven connection between animal cruelty and child abuse, domestic violence and juvenile delinquency.
A second bill of Stanley's that would establish a fund to help low-income persons with the cost of spay and neuter surgeries has also been continued until 2015.
The legislation would provide vouchers through rescue agencies to reduce the out-of-pocket cost for the surgery to $10.
Although the bill provides funding for the legislation with a $50 surcharge per ton of pet food sold in Virginia, while exempting the pet food from the litter tax, the Senate Finance Committee estimates the fiscal impact for the administration of the program by the Department of Ag and Consumer Services would be $621,030 the first year and $321,030 each year afterward.
Stanley said he is working with dog food companies to find a fix for the legislation by next year.
"This legislation, hopefully, will go a long way to help control the population of unwanted animals in our communities," Stanley said, "lowering the kill rate in our shelters."