An ordinance establishing a new animal abuse registry sailed through Cook County’s Law Enforcement Committee Tuesday morning, with the only public opposition coming from Tanya Triche of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA).
The ordinance, spearheaded by Commissioner John Fritchey, calls for the establishment of a registry to be run by the Sheriff’s Office listing the names and addresses of convicted abusers. The ordinance would require pet shops, shelters and rescues to check the registry prior to selling or adopting out an animal to any individual, and prevents abusers from buying or adopting pets for 15 years after their conviction.
Those convicted of dog fighting, animal torture or aggravated cruelty would be required register their names and addresses with the Animal Abuser Registry, or face a fine up to $2,000 dollars. Shelters or shop owners who “knowingly” let registered abusers walk away with a pet would face fines as well. Fritchey says legislation for a statewide animal abuse registry is pending in Springfield, and given “significant evidence to show animal abusers often go to commit violent crimes against humans,” commissioners have a “societal interest” to vote in favor. The Sheriff’s Office estimates the registry would be up and running by the new year. It will not include names of those convicted of prior offenses, only those occurring after January 1, 2017.
IRMA’s Tanya Triche testified the move is “well intentioned, but doesn’t tackle core issue of keeping convicted animal abusers to getting access to animals.” She argued point of sale systems at pet shops and rescues often do not have internet access, and checking the 100,000 pets sold across the county each year, from goldfish to dogs, is burdensome. Refusal to sell might put retailers at risk of assault from angry customers.
Fritchey disputed those claims, and told fellow commissioners IRMA approached him about only including offenders against dogs, cats, and rabbits on the registry. Fritchey said he dismissed the idea, saying that would mean “If somebody set a guinea pig on fire, we would have no problem selling them a dog or cat.”
The ordinance is expected to pass the full Board of Commissioners later today.