Animal abusers face pet-adoption blockade in San Francisco

Pet abusers would have a tough time adopting new animals in San Francisco if a local database designed to track such offenders is created.

The City’s Animal Welfare Commission will discuss the proposal today to gauge support for it. The database would allow animal rescue groups to keep tabs on owners who have neglected pets or been involved in criminal cases associated with animals. It would be just the second of its kind in the nation.

The data would not be subject to public inspection, but only available to groups that allow people to adopt pets, said Sandra Bernal of San Francisco Animal Care and Control.

“It would provide the name of the person and it would explain what the case was about,” she said.

Pet groups would then have the option of making their own decision about a person’s suitability for adoption.

Officials with Animal Care and Control said they don’t have a cost estimate for a local system.

A state Senate bill that would have required convicted-felon animal abusers to register with the state for 10 years after their conviction was tabled last year because the estimated costs approached $2 million.

Together, The City’s biggest adoption centers, Animal Care and Control and the San Francisco chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, foster about 7,000 animals a year. Both groups maintain their own records about pet offenders, but there is no coordinated system.

“We do reserve the right to refuse adoption to anyone,” Animal Care and Control spokeswoman Rebecca Katz said.

If the commission is interested in pursuing such a system, the Board of Supervisors would have the final say.

Officials in Suffolk County, N.Y., are preparing to enforce the nation’s first animal abuse registry law, which mimics the Megan’s Law sex offender database.

Offenders will have to register, and their information would be open to the public.

“If someone that’s living next door to you has sexually assaulted an animal or set up animal fighting … wouldn’t you want to know?” said Stephan Otto, a legislative director at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which helps municipalities find money to pursue such laws.

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