This ballot initiative for the 2024 election will create a registry of convicted animal abusers and change property laws to spare animals from being incarcerated for months or years while their abusers await trial.
Puppy mill breeding, dog fighting, starvation, physical abuse and neglect. Each and every animal that must endure such torture at the hands of humans deserves better. Unfortunately, the horror doesn’t often end for those that cannot speak out or fight for themselves. According to the Michigan State Police, the cases of animal abuse in the state (including Genesee County) have skyrocketed since 2016. More and more, criminals and twisted individuals are profiting by abusing and neglecting innocent animals – from dogs and cats to horses, hamsters, birds, lizards and more. In order to fight this epidemic of cruelty, Sheriff Christopher R. Swanson and a coalition of animal lovers and advocates are spearheading an initiative to hold abusers accountable for their inhumane actions and help abused animals get the happy life they deserve.
“Protect MI Pet is a statewide ballot initiative that, if voted in, will help animals in two ways,” explains Swanson. “One: it will create a registry of animal abusers in the State of Michigan and will bar those convicted of animal abuse from owning an animal; and two: it will close a civil process loophole that will allow an abused animal to find a loving, caring home instead of suffering in a cage through the duration of a trial that could take years.” The coalition hopes to put the Protect MI Pet initiative on the November 2024 election ballot for voters to support.
Currently, animal abusers can continue their reign of terror after an abuse conviction by simply moving residence or their base of operations to another area of the state or acquiring new “victims” via private sale or pet shops. “Right now, there is no way to know who you are selling an animal to besides platforms like Google or Facebook. There’s almost no way to figure it out,” adds Swanson. “This initiative will build a public registry of convicted abusers. If your dog has puppies and you are looking to sell or give them away, you can check the registry to make sure they are going to good, safe homes.” In addition to landing on the public registry, convicted abusers will be barred from owning an animal for a number of years depending upon the charges involved. “If you are convicted of animal abuse, you have given up the right to own a pet,” Swanson explains. “Someone convicted of a misdemeanor will lose their right to own an animal for a minimum of two years, five years for a felony charge, and longer for multiple charges.”→
Also in the State of Michigan, animals are considered personal property (chattel) which ultimately can add to the neglect of abused animals. “If a person refuses to give up his property (the animal) then, the animal will be caged in a facility for the duration of the trial process,” explains Swanson. Trials may last years, prolonging the animal’s suffering. Should the ballot initiative pass, that loophole would be closed and allow animals to be placed in a good home after limited period. In addition to the animal’s suffering, the loophole provides a drain of society funds and efforts. “We rescued 36 dogs from a dog-fighting ring and currently, they are in cages at Animal Control,” tells Swanson. “It costs roughly $20 per dog per day to house them. That’s $720 per day. To date, nearly $74,000 has been spent sheltering these animals with no end in sight.”
“Animals cannot testify or voice their pain. It’s up to us to help them.”
Sheriff Chris Swanson
Swanson also assures that there will be allowances for humane euthanasia of suffering animals; for example, those that may be sick or injured beyond help. “The courts will allow for interpretation of a situation,” says Swanson. For example, there is a difference between ending an animal’s life humanely versus bludgeoning it to death with a blunt instrument or starving it to death. The courts will decide.
Identifying those who abuse and mistreat animals is much more serious than first thought. Proving to people that there will be accountability for such actions can help deter future violence. “There is a relationship between animal abuse and violence against people,” states Swanson. Animal cruelty is a known predictor of future violence including rape, murder, arson, domestic violence and child sexual abuse. Statistics show that 75% of abused women report a history of their animals being threatened or harmed by their intimate partner. From 1988 to 2012, it was found that 43% of school shooters had histories of animal cruelty. The possible impact of the initiative goes far beyond animal abuse.
Protect MI Pet kicked off in April on National Pet Day with hopes of gaining enough support to be included on the November ballot and the initiative needs all the help it can get. “There are two ways to get on the ballot,” says Swanson. “One is to get enough petition signatures and the second is via legislative vote. We are pursuing both – these animals cannot wait.” The initiative will need 500,000 petition signatures in 180 days to be placed on the ballot. Sheriff Swanson and his team have made a stretch goal of 750,000 signatures to ensure they exceed the requirement.
Protect MI Pet is hoping for robust support. If you would like to become a volunteer, donate to the cause, or find more information, please visit protectmipet.com. Please stay informed to add your signature to the petition when the time comes and, of course, to vote “YES” in November.
“It’s estimated that the initiative has a 87% chance of passing if it is able to find its way onto the ballot,” says Swanson. “Animals cannot testify or voice their pain. It’s up to us to help them.”
Help Protect MI Pet end the cruelty. Visit Protectmipet.com