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Illinois Lawmaker Proposes Reintroducing Statewide Animal Abuser Registry

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A statewide animal abuser registry could be in our future, with an Illinois state senator saying he has plans to reintroduce a bill that would make it happen.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported Monday, this all comes after CBS 2 found that the three-year-old Cook County registry had never been used – though that's changing now.

A statewide registry would not only shrink the margin for error that CBS 2 has reported, but CBS 2 found it would shrink the current loopholes in the Cook County ordinance too.

Created and approved to make sure convicted animal abusers wouldn't get their hands on more victims, the Animal Abuser Registry meant to do good in Cook County.

But as CBS 2 first exposed, communication issues within county offices kept it from doing that. Not one convicted offender was entered into the system – for years.

But since CBS 2's reports last week, the Cook County Sheriff's office confirms they've found more than 50 convicted offenders who need to register, worked 20 cases over the weekend, and formally served three with notices to register.

Once served or formally notified under the county law, a convicted animal abuse offender has five days to enter their information in the registry.

"It seems like it's going through multiple agencies from what your story showed, and while I don't think anybody has the intent of not doing it, they just don't know whose jurisdiction it falls under," said state Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park), "so hopefully through our state registry, it will make it very clear."

Cullerton sponsored a bill for a statewide animal abuser registry once and plans to introduce it again. It would create the registry on a statewide basis, and make protections offered similar to those by the Cook County ordinance a law.

Read The Proposed State Bill

"I just don't want these animals to get in the wrong people's hands," Cullerton said, "and if you have a history of violence against animals, you shouldn't be able to just walk into a pet store and pick out another animal you're going to abuse, because you have something wrong with you."

The state bill would prevent a convicted animal abuser from owning or adopting a pet for seven to 10 years, while establishing a database through state police that rescue groups, pet stores and shelters can use to make sure that doesn't happen – in Cook County or any other county in the state.

The Cook County Sheriff's office cannot enforce the countywide ordinance outside of the county. So far, they have found some convicted offenders who would have to register in Cook County no longer live there.

But the rules would apply all across Illinois with Cullerton's proposed law.

"Once you're convicted, that information will go to the state police and they'll put it right up on the registry," Cullerton said, "and we will try to offset that by whoever is convicted will also have to pay a fee that will offset the cost of the registry as well."

The next legislative session starts up in January, which is when Cullerton says he will introduce the bill.

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