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State legislation to prevent animal abuse returns to Lansing

Flickr user audreyjm529 | https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

A pair of bills aimed at preventing repeat offenses by animal abusers has returned to the Michigan Legislature, having passed through the state Senate. 

One of the bills, sponsored by State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, would prevent anyone convicted of one of a variety of animal abuse charges from purchasing an animal for five years. 

The other bill, sponsored by State Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, would allow nonprofit animal shelters access to the Michigan State Police's Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT). This would allow background checks on potential adopters. 

Bieda said using ICHAT made the proposal more reasonable. A similar set of bills in 2013 attempted to create a separate database of animal abusers, which was deemed too costly.

"The State Police were very, very helpful in coming up with a solution that was very elegant and very efficient," he said. 

The two lawmakers said they are passionate about protecting animals and see the bill as beneficial in many ways. They mentioned studies connecting animal abuse to human abuse, citing people like Jeffery Dahmer as an example. 

"I saw many abusers in my police work. They are really sick people," said Jones, who previously served as Eaton County Sheriff. 

For Bieda, this is an issue that's close to his heart. He said his original passion before pursuing politics was veterinary medicine.

"I'm an animal lover. I've adopted at least three dogs and cats through rescue organizations," he said. "My co-sponsors and other sponsors of these bills I think share that same concern." 

Both said they are confident the bills will make it to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk in the coming weeks.