Despite political dog fight, Hillsborough approves animal abuse registry

Abused dog Cabela was found shot and tied to the railroad tracks in Tampa. She has recovered.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – People convicted of animal abuse will no longer be able to adopt animals in Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough County Commissioners on Thursday passed an ordinance that creates an animal abuse registry.  The ordinance requires people convicted of abusing animals to register with the sheriff’s office. It also prohibits them from adopting in the future. People who buy animals at pet stores must also sign an affidavit saying they are not on the abuse registry.

Lisa Walker-Hutches chairs Hillsborough County’s Animal Advisory Committee (AAC). She says that as written, the new ordinance will not keep one animal safe.

“We talk about an affidavit at a pet store, that animal is already out the door. That animal is already abused, it doesn’t matter if they sign a piece of paper or not,” she said.

Commissioner Stacy White felt the ordinance needed work and suggested sending it back to the AAC for revisions.  Commissioner Kevin Beckner would have none of it.

“There were accusations that were thrown out that this was all a political ploy that I put forward.  This is hardly a political ploy, this is about the safety of our animals, the safety of our citizens,” Beckner emphatically stated.

RELATED: Teen sentenced for shooting, tying dog to tracks 

Commissioner Beckner proposed the animal abuse registry and hopes that eventually it will be adopted statewide.  He claims the AAC wants to get it back to rewrite it and to take the credit.

“So I think there are a couple of members who have other intentions, so we can’t deal with the politics and ego that sits on the AAC board,” Beckner told commissioners.

“If we want to talk about this being a political thing, then we need to ask Commissioner Beckner why he chose a secret committee, that contained individuals outside of this county,” Walker-Hutches countered.

Beckner conceded two members of the committee he put together were from other counties, Manatee and Marion.  They were there he claims, because they are interested in crafting such an ordinance for their counties.  He asked one current member of the AAC, his appointee, Wendy DePaul, to join the committee he formed.

Hillsborough County already has a list of people who are not allowed to own animals.  It is called the “enjoined list.”  Earlier this year, 8 On Your Side revealed that the enjoined list had not been updated in two years.

“If you can’t maintain one, you can’t maintain the other,” Walker-Hutches argues.

Commissioner Beckner counters that the sheriff’s office and code enforcement department will work hand in hand to track down those who do not register.

Hillsborough County Code Enforcement Director Ron Spiller told commissioners his department will handle complaints similar to the way it handles code complaints.

That may not be so reassuring for some.  8 On Your Side has repeatedly exposed the county’s inability or unwillingness to clamp down on chronic code violators who’ve run up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Commissioners passed the animal abuse registry by a vote of 6-to-1 with Commissioner Stacy White voting against it.

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