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Court Clerk's Office Says Animal Abuser Registry Unused Because It Did Not Know About The Ordinance Requiring It

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Cook County animal abuser registry has gone unused for its years of existence because the Circuit Court Clerk's office didn't know it existed, officials say.

According to an office representative, no one in the office knew it existed until CBS 2's Tara Molina started asking questions about the unused registry meant to prevent animal abusers from buy or adopting pets.

"This week the Sheriff's Office informed the (Circuit Court) Clerk's Office of the ordinance and the existence of the Animal Abuser Registry," a clerk's office representative said.

A spokesperson for the clerk's office sent the following statement:

"The Sheriff's Office has not provided the (Circuit Court) Clerk's Office with the rules and regulations to implement this ordinance, and did not inform the Clerk's Office of the existence of the Animal Abuser Registry until this week."

The Cook County Sheriff's Office responded to the statements made by the Clerk's Office to CBS 2 with this:

"The Sheriff's Office is concentrating on enforcing the registry, not shifting blame."

The Cook County ordinance requiring animal abusers to register has been on the books for nearly three years:

"When a person is convicted of an Animal Abuse Crime, the presiding judge shall notify the convicted individual of their requirement to register...The clerk of the court shall send notice of the conviction and the individual's name, address, date of birth and offense for which he or she has been convicted to the Cook County Sheriff's Office."

"This isn't just an administrative failure. We've got animals that are probably dying because of this," said John Fritchey, a former Cook County commissioner who fought for the registry to be created.

It's not clear if judges were issuing those orders, but now it is clear why no offenders' names made it from the court clerk's office to the sheriff's office.

Names that should be on the list include Leon Teague, the South Side man who went to prison after pouring scalding water on a cat in a Facebook video and Edward Hanania, who replied to a missing ad, paid the reward to get the dogs and then threw them off of a five-story parking garage. He also went to prison.

A spokesperson from the court clerk's office would not go on camera but answer some questions via email, telling CBS 2 that as soon as the office was informed of the ordinance and existence of the registry "Immediately, the Clerk's Office's technology bureau was directed to run a report to obtain the required data and submit it to the Sheriff's Office. The Clerk's Office also implemented a daily reporting procedure with the Sheriff's Office of individuals in Cook County that have been convicted of an Animal Abuse Crime."

Commissioners had to approve the ordinance years ago. It's not clear if there was a member of the clerk's office at those meetings or how the office could have been unfamiliar with this for so long.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office said it has now received the information it needs and will start enforcing the ordinance Saturday. The office will begin reaching out to people who need to register.

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