Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Group eyes registry for animal abuse

Would ban bad owners from having more pets

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A Winnipeg group is compiling a coast-to-coast petition to lay the groundwork for an animal-abuse registry.

Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux said he will review the petition and present it to the House of Commons.

Similar to the Child Abuse Registry, the animal registry would ensure anyone in Canada with a history of abusing or neglecting an animal would be banned from owning animals in the future.

"If we did have this in place, it would really help limit these abusers from getting their hands on animals, because there would be a record of it across the country," said Yvonne Russell, president of Paw Tipsters, a non-profit organization that works in partnership with Winnipeg Crime Stoppers to combat animal abuse.

"What I don't understand, and that's why I am hoping this registry can go ahead, is why can people commit these sorts of terrible abuse, sometimes hundreds of animals (in hoarding situations), and all they get is 'you're not allowed animals for five years?' " Russell said, speaking hypothetically about a court-ordered penalty.

"Well, how about, 'you're never allowed animals again.' Why would you be able to own an animal or a pet again after you do something like that (abuse or neglect) to an animal? It doesn't make sense to me."

Signatures on paper copies of the Animal-Abuse Registry petition are being collected until Sept. 30. Online petitions are not accepted.

"This is a very good issue and it's the type of thing I like personally," Lamoureux said in an interview. He has an eight-month-old cat named Penguin, which he adopted from the Winnipeg Humane Society.

"I'd say the vast majority, 95 per cent plus of people, do not want to see abuse of animals and would not oppose denying a person the opportunity to have a pet if they've got a record of abusing animals," Lamoureux said.

"Something of this nature, there is a lot of merit. So I would have said to her (Russell), get the petition, and if it is what you're saying, I will raise the issue inside the House. I think it's a wonderful thing."

Russell has set a goal of 50,000 signatures, but as long as she has 25 signatures, which she long ago surpassed, Lamoureux can present it in the House of Commons during the next session. "If we can bring in legislation that would protect animals by having a registry, I think there is great merit for it. At the very least, through the petition we will get it debated inside the House," he said. "I look forward to receiving it."

Russell, whose Paw Tipsters organization was given new life recently after a public plea for donations to pay rewards to those who report abuse, said there is already plenty of support for an animal-abuse registry.

"I've got hundreds of people from all across the country helping me collect signatures. I'm super-excited about this," she said.

"There needs to be a voice for animals," Russell said. "They can't speak for themselves."

To sign in Manitoba, email pawtipsters@hotmail.ca or go to www.pawtipsters.ca to request a hard copy of the petition.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2013 A9

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