TAMPA -- Convicted animal abusers will no longer be able to adopt dogs and cats in Hillsborough County.
County commissioners on Thursday approved a new registry for people convicted of harming animals. Individuals on the registry won't be able to adopt or work with animals, and retailers and shelters will be required to check the registry whenever someone wants to adopt.
Commissioner Kevin Beckner has pushed the issue for months but it was continually pulled back to fix kinks. For example, retailers had objections that their staffs would be in charge of confronting people with violent pasts.
Beckner said the issue was resolved. Instead of checking people against the animal registry at the point of sale, potential adopters would have to sign an affidavit affirming that they have never been convicted of animal abuse. Then, retailers would verify after and notify the county to send animal control officers to seize the pet.
Shelters would run the background check immediately.
If retailers had any lingering objectives, Beckner said, the retail industry would prefer to have no obligation whatsoever."
"We as a committee believed that there had to be some obligation to protect animals and protect the public safety," Beckner said.
While groups like the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and their volunteers lobbied for the ordinance, animal advocates in the community weren't unanimous in their support of the registry.
Lisa Hutches, chair of the county's citizen Animal Advisory Committee said the ordinance was "ill written" and would prove costly to the county. She asked for commissioners to send the proposal back to the committee for further review.
"It is not going to save one animal in the county," Hutches said. "What you have right now is not sufficient at all. This is an animal rights driven activism."
It seemed that commissioners at one point considered obliging Hutches. Commissioner Stacy White made a motion to delay action until October and await a recommendation from the advisory committee and several commissioners expressed that it would be their preferred option.
"I don't think the ordinance right now is exactly ready for us to vote on. I am in favor of an animal abuse registry," Murman said. "Personally I believe this is a state issue."
But Beckner said the state Legislature has repeatedly killed bills to create an animal registry. The registry, he and supporters said, would also allow law enforcement to keep tabs on violent individuals, noting that a history of harm to animals often proceeds violence toward people.
He defended his proposal against objections from the Animal Advisory Committee as politically motivated.
"They seem to have a problem with them not being approached to begin with to draft this ordinance," Beckner said. "Their intention is to get this thrown back to them so they can get the credit for trying to bring this forward."
Ultimately, the board voted 6-1 to approve. White was the "no" vote.
The ordinance will go into effect on Nov. 1.