To prevent future abuse, neglect and even torture of animals, Volusia County will establish a database of convicted abusers — complete with their photos and a listing of their crimes.
The County Council’s decision to create an animal-abuse registry comes as a follow-on to Ponce’s Law, a state statute so named because of the beating death of Ponce, a Labrador retriever puppy, by his owner in Ponce Inlet in 2017.
Last year, Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill increasing the likelihood of putting convicted abusers behind bars. The law empowers judges to bar those convicted of felony animal abuse from adopting or owning animals.
“I think with this law, we’re going to see more convictions,” County Council Member Billie Wheeler said during the debate on the issue March 19. “This is something that needs to be addressed.”
The council agreed to link the county government’s website with that of the Clerk of the Court to produce a listing of those found guilty of crimes against animals. Council Member and retired Sheriff Ben Johnson said the information may prevent crimes, if people use it to screen those who want to adopt animals.
“Do you want to give somebody a dog, who’s done animal abuse?” Johnson asked rhetorically.
A proponent of Ponce’s Law, Debbie Darino, urged the council to form the registry so “the rescues, the shelters … could look in there before they adopt [a pet] out.”
“I know each of you are animal-lovers,” Darino told the council.
The animal-abuse registry, showing the names and photos of convicted abusers, will be accessible by the public. The database will keep the information about an abuser for as long as 10 years.
Assistant County Attorney Jamie Seaman said the registry will probably be finished and ready to use “in about two weeks.” The county’s information-technology staff will be involved in meshing the websites to form the animal-abuse registry.
“There will be a disclaimer telling them [users] that if there is any wrong information, to contact us,” she added.
Council members called for posting photos of those convicted of animal cruelty as a precaution against an innocent person with a similar name from being falsely labeled a felon and wrongly associated with the guilty.
At least six other Florida counties have animal-abuse registries: Hillsborough, Leon, Manatee, Marion, Osceola and Pasco.