Monday, Suffolk County activates the first animal abuser registry in the United States, which will make public the identities of convicted animal abusers. The internet registry will display their names, addresses and photographs.
The law requires pet stores, breeders and animal shelters to check the registry and not sell or adopt animals to anyone on it, according to the Animal Law Coalition. Abusers will stay on the registry for five years each, and will face jail time or fines if they do not sign up for and renew their registrations throughout that period.
The Coalition reports that in Suffolk County, “animal abuse” includes animal fighting; overdriving, torturing and injuring animals; failing to provide proper sustenance; aggravated cruelty to animals; abandoning animals; interfering with or injuring certain domestic animals; and harming a service animal.
The†Animal Legal Defense Fund is leading a nationwide effort to pass more laws like Suffolk County’s.†If registries like this were widespread, they could make a real difference in preventing animal cruelty. Without them, convicted animal abusers, including hoarders, can easily evade court sentences forbidding them from owning animals by moving to a different county or state. Nationwide registries would make it much harder for them to acquire new animals just by changing their location.
Registries like Suffolk County’s could also prevent crimes that hurt humans. A person who abuses or kills animals is five times more likely to commit violence against humans and four times more likely to commit property crimes, according to a Business Week report on a 1997 study by Northeastern University and the Massachusetts SPCA.
Other counties and states have considered similar registries and some plan to implement them, but last February Colorado voted down a law to create one. Objections to the registries include concerns about the civil rights of animal abusers and the possibility that exposure to the public will make offenders even less likely to cooperate with authorities that otherwise might be able to keep them from harming other animals.
Photo Credit: elycefeliz