Senator, resident push pet-abuse registry bill

The owner of a golden retriever puppy shot and killed this month in Middletown traveled to Annapolis on Thursday to support a bill that would require convicted animal abusers to enter their names in a publicly accessible registry.

State Sen. Ron Young, who represents Frederick County, is drafting the bill, which he hopes will help pets find loving homes and will identify troubling behavior before it escalates into violence against people.

“If I had somebody living next door to me that was abusing animals, I’d like to know for the sake of my dogs,” he said, “and I would also like to see that they couldn’t get another pet to abuse it.”–

He said he will name the bill “Heidi’s law” after the 7-month-old golden retriever who was shot Jan. 4 while playing in a Middletown yard. Heidi’s owner, Lynette Kaufmann, and her friends searched for hours around the nearly 60-acre farm before finding the puppy’s body in a gully.

As she grieved for Heidi, Kaufmann grew increasingly determined to take action. She hopes an animal abuse registry might cause abusers to think twice before hurting pets like Heidi.

“I’m sorry, but a dog is nothing but a big, furry bundle of love,” she said. “Why should a dog be abused? This isn’t what life is intended to be.”

As someone who fosters dogs, Kaufmann said she has come across many cases of animal cruelty.

Young said he decided he would write the bill a couple of months ago, after brainstorming with the Frederick County Humane Society. As he moved forward with the idea, he heard about Heidi’s death. That reaffirmed the need for a registry, he said.

On Thursday, Kaufmann and one of her friends came to Annapolis to offer Young their assistance.

“I told him I will do whatever it takes to make sure this bill is passed,” she said.

The bill would require people who are convicted of animal abuse to register in a statewide system similar to the one used for sex offenders, Young said. Animal shelters, humane societies and anyone else could check the registry and refuse to provide pets to someone who has a history of abuse.

In addition, the system could act as a warning sign, he said.

“Almost every serial killer started out torturing and killing animals,” Young said. “I don’t mean that everybody that ever abuses an animal is going to be a serial killer. But it is an indication of problems.”

Convicted animal abusers could clear their names from the registry after 10 years as long as they do not reoffend, he said. To cover the cost of managing the system, the offenders on the list would have to pay an annual fee of $50.

Efforts are under way to draw up the bill. Young said it should be ready next week.

Frederick County authorities reported receiving 278 requests for animal welfare checks in the last six months of 2011.

Most of those incidents were resolved without involving the courts, but Harold Domer, director of animal control for the county, said criminal cases involving animal cruelty or neglect crop up every month or two.

Investigators are following leads in Heidi’s shooting, Domer said, but they have not charged anyone.

An $8,000 reward has been offered for information that helps close the case with an arrest or indictment. Donations increasing the size of the reward continue to come in, Kaufmann said.


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