GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Several animal rights groups and law enforcement agencies are teaming up on a new ballot initiative that, if approved by voters, would launch a statewide animal abuse registry.
The initiative is called Protect MI Pet. The group held a roundtable discussion Monday night, featuring Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson, Assistant Genesee County Prosecutor Alena Clark and Tanya Hilgendorf, the president and CEO of the Michigan Pet Alliance.
“People are just really passionate about animals. They care deeply. They don’t want them to die needlessly and they don’t want them to suffer,” Hilgendorf said.
Organizers are working to drum up support and collect enough valid signatures, targeting the November 2024 ballot. The initiative would make two key changes. The first is that the state would launch a public registry of people convicted of animal abuse. The registry would be searchable and accessible to everyone, including animal shelters, breeders and law enforcement.
“(Right now) these people have to use Google or Facebook to do their background checks. Now, we’ll be able to check and be held accountable,” Swanson said.
The ballot initiative would also adjust the state’s current animal forfeiture process, reducing the amount of time that seized animals must spend in confinement while legal cases play out in court. According to the MPA, some animals are forced to live at animal shelters for years without the opportunity of being adopted, costing shelters thousands of dollars.
A similar case is playing out in Muskegon County. Law enforcement seized 78 dogs in January from an alleged dog rescue in Norton Shores. They were found living in unhealthy conditions. Lisa Cober faces animal cruelty charges but has yet to relinquish ownership of the dogs.
The dogs are spread across four different shelters. Two of them — Harbor Humane Society and Big Lake Humane Society — told News 8 they both have already spent more than $10,000 to take care of these dogs and will likely not see any future compensation.
A rally is planned for April 11 — National Pet Day — on the steps of the state Capitol in Lansing to gather support for the ballot initiative.