Today, the Ocala StarBanner reported that County Commissioners in Marion County, Florida, invited animal services, county lawyers and deputies to work together on a potential ordinance. They want to develop an animal abuse registry, a database that would track people convicted in animal cruelty cases. Local animal advocates were inspired by a mixed breed dog named Molly, who nearly died at the hands of her owner. Advocates are disgusted by the unending accounts of animals being abused, murdered, tortured and neglected by strangers, as well as by their own cruel owners. They hope to make ‘Molly’s Law‘ a reality. Monday, the Humane Society of Marion County remindedFacebook friends about the scheduled meeting, and asked local residents to show up and support this vital ordinance.
If implemented, the law would create a website, similar to sex-offender registries, which would feature the names, pictures and addresses of convicted animal abusers in that county. Linda Littlewolf, who is spearheading the effort, hopes that if it is implemented in Marion County, this will trigger a domino effect in other Florida counties. She said, “it would prevent animal abusers from being able to re-offend, by keeping them away from animals.”
It would inform law enforcement, animal control, pounds, shelters, pet stores, pet breeders the public … that offenders are not fit to buy any animal.
It would go a long way towards stopping the cycle of abuse. Advocates proposed that the registry be administered by the Sheriff’s Office. Further, under ‘Molly’s Law’, felons convicted of animal abuse would have to register and pay a fine of up to $125 per year, funds which would be used to pay for the registry.
Molly herself was present with her current owner, Lilly Baron, at this Commission meeting. In 2014, she suffered a fractured skull and nearly died after her owner, Steven Fleming, brutally beat her with a bat in a drunken rage. She also sustained three stab wounds through the top of her head. Neighbors heard her cries and came to her aid, contacting Ocala police officers. When he was captured, Fleming had two knives in his pocket and his jeans were covered in blood. Her abuser plead guilty to three felony animal cruelty charges and one misdemeanor account of resisting arrest. He is still behind bars. The Humane Society of Marion County states,
Molly is a survivor of unspeakable brutality and represents ALL abused and neglected animals. She plans to take a BITE out of our animal cruelty crisis and needs you to be the voice of reason and hope for her suffering friends.
Supporters hope that Molly’s Law would encourage people to report more cases. In addition, the registry would add abusers to a database for things like hoarding, bestiality, dog fighting and cock fighting.
At today’s meeting, Commissioners requested that the Sheriff’s Office return with a draft of the proposal, which would be presented to the Marion County Board in April. Marion County is one of the first Florida counties to begin moving towards implementing an animal abuser registry. Other states have already proposed legislation of this type, with Tennessee becoming the first state to pass a statewide animal abuser registry. Littlewolf has partnered with two other passionate animal advocates, Nikki Collins and Betsy Coville, to gain momentum on this proposal. The ultimate goal of all three women is to develop a statewide registry.