For over two decades of public service I have advocated on behalf of our communitys animals, especially those in abusive situations. Rescuing our familys bulldog €œBlue€ from what was certain to be a life of fighting serves as a constant reminder to prevent more animals from suffering.
This is Be Kind to Animals Week. This time last year, thousands of Tallahassee residents pledged their commitment to #loveourpets. This animal cruelty awareness and education campaign encouraged residents to report suspected cases of animal abuse or neglect.
During last years campaign launch, I called for the formation of a task force to coordinate enforcement agencies and put some teeth into the process of addressing animal cruelty cases. Comprised of representatives from the State Attorneys Office, Leon County Sheriffs Office, Tallahassee Police Department, City of Tallahassee Parks and Recreation, community partners and Animal Control, the task force has worked hard to ensure that animal cruelty cases are comprehensively followed from investigation to enforcement to prosecution.
We have already seen a substantial increase in animal cruelty cases entering the process as criminal cases instead of just civil citations. Last years 26 criminal cases €“ involving 28 animals and resulting in 21 arrests €“ represents more than the cumulative total criminal cases for the prior five to eight years. The task force has also made progress in creating a judicial education program, helping streamline that process by giving judges continued access to statute updates and other information relevant to sentencing.
There is still more to be done. Last week, we took it one step further as the City Commission voted unanimously to establish an Animal Abuse Registry. The registry ordinance requires people who are convicted of certain felony or misdemeanor animal abuse offenses to be placed on a publicly accessible online registry.
The goal of the registry is to increase public awareness of animal crimes. It also allows entities like our Animal Shelter or individuals who are offering animals for adoption to identify previous offenders and prevent them from unlawfully adopting another animal. The registry can also be used in the judicial process as a part of sentencing and will ultimately serve to protect the public health, safety and welfare of residents and animals within our community.
We are fortunate the Leon County Clerk of Courts is working with us for a seamless transition of information and are hopeful this registry will soon go beyond city limits and be adopted by Leon County €“ and perhaps even statewide.
This is just one weapon in our ever-strengthening arsenal to combat animal cruelty and its related domestic and child abuse. My commitment to the cause is stronger than ever, and Im thankful for the work being done by the members of the Animal Task Force, the City Commission and community volunteers.
With your help we can put an end to animal abuse in Tallahassee, and stand up for our furry friends that cannot stand up for themselves.