Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

Pasco seeks to curb abusers from owning new pets

DADE CITY — Dexter's Law could become Dexter's Web link in Pasco County.

On Tuesday, county commissioners introduced a proposal to keep pets away from convicted animal abusers. But the county will not require abusers to register locally, as mandated in a Hillsborough County ordinance that went into effect Nov. 1.

Instead, Pasco plans to provide a web link to Pasco Circuit Court Clerk records, allowing people selling or putting animals up for adoption to verify whether the individual taking the animal has a record of abuse.

"I think this is still a good solution," said commission Chairman Mike Moore, who had advocated for the ordinance.

The effort comes nearly five years after then-state Sen. Mike Fasano unsuccessfully attempted to create a statewide animal abuse registry. His bill was known as Dexter's Law, named for a kitten in Hernando County that was euthanized after being rescued from a woman who had beaten the animal with a metal baseball bat.

A judge later sentenced the woman to a year in jail. Fasano's bill died because it did not get a sponsor in the state House of Representatives.

Tennessee now has a statewide registry and, in Florida, Hillsborough and Marion counties have approved local registries. Marion County's ordinance becomes effective Jan. 1. Pasco commissioners planned to follow suit but altered their proposal with the help of office of Circuit Court Clerk Paula S. O'Neil.

"Having a statewide registry would be ideal," said Kristi Sims, the senior assistant county attorney, who drafted Pasco's proposed ordinance, "but having to replicate that on a local level would require significant (information technology) resources and clerk services at this time."

O'Neil's office said it would cull animal cruelty convictions for Pasco residents from the statewide criminal database and make the records available online by March 1. The proposed ordinance is scheduled for a Jan. 10 public hearing in Dade City.

"The proposed ordinance prohibits any person from knowingly transferring an animal to an animal abuser identified on the link," Animal Services director Michael Shumate wrote in a memo to the commission. "Shelters, humane organizations, pet dealers and similar entities are required by the ordinance to create and retain records demonstrating the online link was checked before transferring an animal.''

''It's great news. I fully support what the county is trying to do," Fasano, now Pasco's tax collector, said Monday. "I wish we could have done it statewide, but at least counties are doing it on their own. I commend them on that."

In fact, a statewide registry remains the county's ultimate goal, Moore said, but the commission needs to show its intent to act locally, as well.

"We want to make sure something gets done before the (legislative) session. We need to be in the game before that," he said before the commission meeting. "It's kind of difficult to say, 'We want to do this, but we don't want to do this ourselves.' "

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