State Rep. Proposes Animal-Abuse Registry

Pet Political Project: If State Rep. Harvey Santana has his way, adults who’ve been convicted of animal abuse in Michigan will become a part of a state registry as an important tool for law enforcement

If state Rep. Harvey Santana has his way, adults who’ve been convicted of animal abuse in Michigan will become part of a state registry, pay a $50 fee, be photographed, and notify police of a change of address — just as sex offenders have to.

The Detroit Democrat introduced his bill in March and calls support thus far “overwhelming.”

Santana, who represents the 10th District on Detroit’s west side, lives in the city’s Warrendale neighborhood with his wife, Sylvia, daughter Sofia, and “my world-champion mutt, Bailey.”

Hour Detroit spoke recently with Santana.

What was your impetus for drafting the bill?

Initially, state Rep. Rashida Tlaib [D-Detroit] had this bill and asked me for support. I said, ‘Why don’t you give it to me? I feel passionate about it and can do a lot of work on it.’ She had too many bills to work on, so I ran with it. … There were two other reasons. I had a neighbor with a toy poodle that had been abused and it just broke my heart to see what this man was doing to this animal. Also, when I went to Puerto Rico to visit my father, he had a stubborn horse he would hit until I couldn’t stand it anymore and had to step in. My father also abused my mother and me.

One of the things that was instilled in us in the military [Santana served in the U.S. Navy] was that we fight on behalf of those who cannot fight for themselves. Well, animals can’t fight for themselves, either.

You draw a correlation between serial killers and animal cruelty. Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer abused animals …

So did the Columbine shooters, the Washington, D.C., sniper, and Son of Sam. They all started out the same way — by being cruel to animals. There’s also a report out that said that if a woman is in an abusive relationship, there’s an 85-percent chance that the man she’s involved with has abused, or is abusing, animals.

The ACLU is opposed to the registry, maintaining that the offenders already have been punished for their crime.

That’s just public policy; there will always be push-back from different directions. … I believe the bill is strong, and the need is there. … To me, [the proposed registry] is a very important tool for law enforcement, too.

Although the state Legislature is dominated by Republicans, this bill would appear to have party crossover appeal.

Absolutely, it does. State Sen. Rick Jones [R-Grand Ledge] is supportive of the bill and offered to get a hearing on it in the Senate. It’s a winnable issue for both sides because there are no Republican dogs or Democratic cats.

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