Proposed bill protects animals from abusive parents

Legislation requires convicted abusers to be listed in registry

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 9:07 p.m. CDT

MORRIS – Making sure every rescued animal finds a loving home is something Gina Bartucci takes seriously.

“We send emails between different shelters and rescues to create a ‘do not adopt’ or ‘do not foster’ list,” Bartucci, president of All Those Left Behind Animal Rescue in Morris, said. “We want to make sure an animal isn’t going home with someone with a history of abusing animals.”

Bartucci’s job may become a little easier thanks to a piece of legislation recently introduced by state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and originally submitted by Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland.

The proposed bill would require all Illinois residents convicted of an animal abuse crime to be listed in the national Do Not Adopt Registry maintained by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

It could also require all shelters, rescues, breeders and pet stores to consult the registry before selling, adopting out or transferring an animal.

If passed, the bill would put Illinois on the map as the first state to cultivate an animal abuser registry.

“It’s a great bill,” Rezin said. “It will help with information and making sure people convicted of animal abuse will not be allowed to adopt.”

The idea for the bill germinated in Helland’s office. He and legal intern Dawn McDermott looked into creating an animal abuse registry after his office received several complaints about the lack of regulation in place for pet adoptions.

They worked closely with Chris Green from the Animal Legal Defense Fund to research the steps needed to include Illinois offenders in the defense fund’s existing database.

They presented their findings to Rezin who drafted proposed legislation based on their research.

“I couldn’t believe there was nothing like this already in place,” Rezin said. “This is a perfect example of someone locally – in this case the state’s attorney – seeing an issue that needs to be addressed and being proactive.”

While the defense fund’s current database is national, it is not supported by laws requiring each state to submit criminal offenders. By doing so, this bill would make the database more complete and therefore a better resource to those adopting out animals, Rezin said.

Residents convicted with animal cruelty, aggravated animal cruelty, animal torture, poisoning and animal and dog fighting would be required by law to be included in the registry.

“This would be a national registry so an offender couldn’t go to another state to try to adopt an animal,” Rezin said.

The state would incur little to no cost when joining the registry since it will continue to be maintained by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Rezin said the cost of managing such a comprehensive database has prevented Illinois and other states from creating the registry themselves.

“It’s great because at a very little cost, we can share a lot of information,” Helland said.

Because it would be so inexpensive, Helland thinks the bill stands a chance of becoming state law.

“There’s a lot of bills that never become laws,” Helland said. “But based on how well it was drafted by the committee, I don’t see why it wouldn’t pass.”

Rezin will officially roll out the new legislation within the next few weeks. Helland and Green will testify in support of the bill when it is unveiled.

“We are really excited about this,” Rezin said. “If this passes it would be a first, but we certainly hope other states will follow.”

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