Logan’s Law reintroduced to House to create animal abuse registry

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published March 24, 2015

LANSING — Third time’s the charm.

At least that’s what Matthew Falk is hoping when it comes to Logan’s Law, a bipartisan bill his own dog helped to inspire.

Michigan Rep. Paul Muxlow, R-Brown City, reintroduced the legislation to the Michigan House of Representatives on March 17 in hopes of getting support from the House and eventually the Senate to create a registry database for convicted animal abusers.

The legislation, as proposed, would list offenders convicted of animal abuse crimes on the Internet Criminal History Access Tool database, otherwise known as ICHAT, commonly used by the Michigan State Police.

The public can access ICHAT for a $10 fee for searches, but according to Muxlow, the state police have agreed to allow animal shelters and animal control centers to access the database free of charge so they’re able to check whether potential adopters have been convicted of an animal abuse crime within the last five years. If they have, the law would prohibit those people from adopting.

“We’re trying to keep abusers away from animals until they grow up or rid themselves of their criminal activity,” said Muxlow.

Asked whether five years is long enough to keep animals out of the hands of convicted abusers, the representative said he’s not sure, but it’s a solid start.

“Let’s try it,” he said. “I’ll be here for a couple years yet, and if we have to get cranky again, we will. We’ve done a lot of work so far.”

Logan’s start
That work started three years ago, when Falk approached Muxlow to do something about the state’s lax punishment for those who intentionally harm animals. Falk had plenty of motivation under his belt since his own pup, Logan, was the victim of a violent attack on his property.

“What happened was three years ago, somebody snuck into our backyard while Logan was in his kennel and threw battery acid in his face,” Falk said.

While Logan wasn’t immediately killed in the incident, the senior dog wasn’t strong enough to handle the months of medications and treatments needed to heal the chemical burns on his face. Logan eventually succumbed to his injuries.

What’s also frustrating, Falk explained, is that when the attack happened, he found little help from police.

“When the sheriff’s department came over, they were basically useless. They were convinced Logan had picked the padlock in my shop and poured the acid on himself. They didn’t even fill out a police report like they would for a property damage incident,” he said. “They asked, ‘Did you see it? Well, no witness, no crime. Sorry about your lock.’ And they left.”

Falk believes that even if the assailant were to ever be caught, the likely sentence would be little more than fines and probation. He knew something had to be done about how seriously Michigan law treats offenses against animals, so he worked with Muxlow to get Logan’s Law in front of legislators.

House work
Muxlow said that on the second attempt to get Logan’s Law passed last year, it was approved by the House 98-12. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it through the full Senate before the session ended.

“Everything gets crazy at the end of the session,” Muxlow said, adding that the majority showing last time gives him hope that there will still be strong support for the legislation on this attempt.

In fact, there have only been a few opposed to the legislation since the beginning, he said, with many of those “skeptics” concerned about the rights of dog breeders.

“We had the puppy mill people who might be afraid of controls on them. They don’t want anybody looking at them,” he said. “They had quite a bit to say at first, but then they got on board. If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you’re not concerned about anyone looking at you.”

To further ensure the legislation’s approval, Muxlow said he plans to personally educate his peers on the benefits of an animal abuse registry, which would cost nothing for taxpayers.

“We’ve had an election since this last went (to the House), so we’ve got a lot of new kids on the block. I’m going to make my way around the chamber and try to assure that there’s nothing dangerous about this and we’ve got a lot of support, including from state police,” he said.

Building a pack
While Muxlow is busy in Lansing, Falk said he’s doing his part from a grass-roots perspective to build support for Logan’s Law. So far, he has nearly 54,000 followers on his Facebook page and endorsements from organizations like the Michigan Humane Society.

“Promoting humane values and the humane treatment of animals is a core to the mission of the Michigan Humane Society, and denying known animal abusers from access to more victims is something all animals lovers can support,” Ryan McTigue, MHS public relations coordinator, said in an email.

Bob Gatt, manager of the Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center, also said the law sounds like a good idea.

“The Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center is in favor of any law that makes animal abusers more responsible for their actions,” Gatt said in an email. “Without knowing everything about Logan’s Law, it  appears to be a giant step in the right direction. As a career police officer, I know that people who intentionally abuse animals are more likely to commit other crimes against people. Logan’s Law will provide another tool for law enforcement officers charged with keeping us all safe.”

Falk has also been approached by other organizations to consult on similar projects in other states. He’s looking at all of the opportunities to see which work best for him and where he can do the most good, since he knows this will be a new career of sorts for him. He feels he owes it to his old pal.

“After the sheriff came out, I felt pretty helpless. There was nothing I could do. This was all done to help Logan, to feel like I’m doing something so his death wasn’t in vain. It’s not a whole lot, but it’s something,” he said.

For more information on Logan’s Law, visit www.Facebook.com/PassLogansLaw.