Proposal aims to change pet adoption process and animal protections in Michigan

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 6:03 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Activists in Michigan are working toward including pet protections in the state’s constitution.

Protect MI Pet,” is preparing to collect signatures in order to be considered on the ballot. If the group can collect enough signatures in six months, the proposal will be voted on by Michiganders in 2024. It aims to create a statewide registry for convicted animal abusers. If approved, the names of all convicted animal abusers in Michigan will be accessible to the public, including animal shelters, rescues, law enforcement, breeders and concerned citizens.

Additionally, the proposal would alter the adoption process for abused animals, reducing the amount of time that seized animals spend in confinement while their legal cases are ongoing. Currently, seized animals have to remain in the shelter until the legal case is over. The ultimate goal, according to prosecutors, is to change the way pets are viewed under the law.

Deputy Director of Ingham County Animal Control, Dan Verhougstraete, said the shelter is in favor of the proposal.

“(the current process) would be akin to holding a prisoner in solitary confinement while they wait for their trial process, for a year, two years, or maybe even longer.” said Verhougstraete, “While people still have due-process, we also need to delineate that animals aren’t just a standard piece of property, you know, like a firearm that’s seized in a crime.”

“Right now, the animals are not considered victims for purposes of sentencing. They’re considered property,” said Alena Clark, an assistant prosecutor in Genesee County. “And animals are not just property. We understand in the legal sense, they can’t vote and stuff like that, but they’re still living.”

The Ingham County Animal Shelter said their ability to complete background checks, is extremely limited

“It’s a lot of, a lot of it’s gut feeling. We do an extensive interview process, so we can kind of get a feel for the people, but in the end, it really is a gut feeling,” said Richard Martel, Ingham County Animal Shelter Clerk & Volunteer.

That’s why Ingham County Animal Control is in support of the “Protect MI Pet” proposal. It would give shelters a tool to protect their adoptable pets.

The Ingham County Shelter made its own animal abuse registry, but it only covers the immediate area.

“It makes me sick.” said Verhougstraete, “He beat the dog with a hammer in front of his kids because the dog urinated on the floor. This individual has moved around quite a few times, and unless he is known to the area, he could walk into an animal shelter and get another animal, right now.”

It is a felony in Michigan to kill or torture an animal intentionally or to commit an act knowing or having reason to know the act will cause an animal to be killed or tortured. Penalties for torturing or killing an animal can vary in severity in Michigan and can be impacted by many factors, including if the animal is a pet or a companion animal. Someone convicted of animal cruelty as a form of domestic violence can face up to 10 years in prison.

To learn more about the initiative, interested individuals can participate in a virtual town hall meeting scheduled for Monday. Registration is required to attend the event.

More information can be found on the official Protect MI Pet website.

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