A bill dubbed “Logan’s Law” was introduced in the Michigan legislature in 2013, requiring those convicted of serious animal crimes to register with a new state database. Named after a Port Huron Husky named Logan whose face was sprayed with acid and who died a short time later, the bill would ban abusers from owning an animal for at least five years. The proposal drew opposition over cost and other concerns, however, and the original version was dropped.
But proponents kept at it and two new bills recently passed the Michigan state senate while companion bills are ready for vote in the house, having cleared committees in that body.
Under the new measures, the ban on ownership remains, and animal shelters and control agencies must check prospective adoptees against the state’s Internet Criminal History Access Tool – ICHAT – before transferring ownership. That usual access fees would be waived.
While a clear net positive for animals, the new legislation is a compromise – those guilty of less serious crimes would be banned only after two convictions. These crimes would include neglect, abandonment, and certain types of physical abuse. Pet stores and for-profit entities, moreover, would not enjoy the waiver, and would not be required to check.
The President of the Capital Area (Lansing) Humane Society, however, is glad to see the bills moving forward, calling the measure a great first step to stop abuse.
If the measures are adopted, Michigan would join Tennessee and several local governments in passing special laws regarding abuse data. Among the locals is New York City, where the city council passed legislation to create a new registry in 2014.
Michigan proponents were concerned with “wrong party” adoptions but were also driven by another concern. According to one sponsor, Senator Steve Brieda, “Many serial killers have admitted that they started torturing and killing animals before they moved on to their human victims. With the passage of this legislation, we may be preventing human violence in the future.”
Some animal advocates and others caution that creation of registries must be done very carefully. According to a 2010 post on the national Humane Society website, “Shaming them [animal abusers] with a public Internet profile is unlikely to affect their future behavior—except perhaps to isolate them further from society and promote increased distrust of authority figures trying to help them.”
The new Michigan law appears to address this concern by using an existing database, which already includes animal crimes. Those convicted would be registered automatically, rather than being forced to come forward, and access (except for non-profits) is $10 per search.
The New York City registry, by comparison, requires convicts to register on their own, but applies to those convicted in any state or locality – no abuser can legally own animals in the city for at least for 5 years. The NYC registry only grants access on a need-to-know basis.
The Humane Society takes the position that efforts to stop animal abuse should focus “on upgrading criminal animal cruelty and neglect penalties, and encouraging more vigorous application of these laws.” The agency conducts and encourages rewards programs, tip lines, and training for law enforcement.
Some statistics seem to reinforce this position. In Connecticut, for example, the rate of conviction for animal abuse is only 18%. The legislature of that state currently has measures pending both to create a database and to increase conviction rates.
There is one database, notably, the Humane Society actively supports – the one that the FBI began compiling in 2016. The FBI database, unlike state and local registries, includes all incidents of crime, not just convictions. According the HSUS, “Having proper data on where and with what frequency cruelty is occurring would help guide lawmakers on policy decisions and law enforcement and other agencies on allocation of scarce resources.”
Meanwhile, bills to create registries are also pending in Illinois and eleven other states.