NYC Animal Abusers May Be Tracked in Online Registry

A convicted animal abuser can’t just go out and get a new animal to abuse, right?

Wrong. Even someone who has had his day in court and been found guilty of animal abuse is often still free to buy or adopt a new animal. Only three counties, all in New York state, require the convict to make his conviction and identity known to animal shelters or pet stores: Suffolk, Rockland and Albany.

New York City is on its way to becoming the fourth locality nationally that would protect animals from known abusers. If a proposal introduced to the City Council on September 12 is adopted, NYC would become the largest political entity to implement an animal abuser registry in the U.S.

The bill was born when a Queens resident “threw a little dog out the window to its death,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who introduced the measure. According to The New York Daily News, the councilman noted that “There is nothing preventing [that resident] from going out tomorrow and getting a free animal out of a shelter.” If Vallone’s proposed registry passes, owning an animal “would be prohibited for any individual on the list.”

“Crimes that would result in inclusion in the registry are animal fighting, abandonment, aggravated cruelty and failure to provide proper sustenance, among others,” Gothamist reports. The online registry would include names, photographs, and home addresses, according to Dogtime.com.

The registry would be available to law enforcement, pet store owners, and animal shelters, but according to The New York Observer, only animal shelters would be required to consult the registry before adopting out an animal. Using the registry would be voluntary for pet stores. If the proposal is passed in this form, a convicted animal abuser would still be able to get himself a brand new puppy to torture just by finding a store that didn’t use the registry.

Another weakness of the proposal is that for many offenders, signing up with the registry would be the individual’s responsibility. According to The New York Observer, “the animal abuse registry would rely on self-reporting by individuals who move to New York City.” People convicted in New York City, however, would have no choice but to register. And new arrivals with animal abuse convictions who didn’t register would face ”up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.”

The same penalty would apply to animal abuse convicts found to own an animal even though they were on or should have been on the registry and therefore banned from having a pet.

According to CBS2 in New York, experts believe “that registries go a long way towards ensuring that animals are placed in safe, loving homes.” CBS2 reported that Tiffany Lacey, executive director of Animal Haven Animal Shelter in SoHo, said, “We’ve seen it too many times. It slipped through the cracks and someone that may have treated an animal poorly can again get another one? They’re gonna do it all over again.”

It is not clear whether the registry would be available to the public, The New York Observer reports. If it were, it could save some human lives too: Jon Cooper, the legislator who sponsored the registry in Suffolk County, has explained that “we know there is a very strong correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence. Almost every serial killer starts out by torturing animals,” the Huffington Post reported. Lisa Franzetta of the Animal Legal Defense Fund agrees. “In story after heartbreaking story, abusers repeat their violent crimes against helpless animals — and often go on to victimize people as well,” she said.

First-time offenders’ names would remain on the New York City registry for five years; subsequent offenses would land convicts on the list for ten years.

After that, they would be allowed to own animals again. Public ambivalence about that idea is clear from the storm surrounding Michael Vick’s July announcement that he wants a new dog.

Vick, the notorious professional football player and dogfighting ring leader, was convicted of horrific abuse of the pitbulls he forced to fight each other, according to Petside.com. He served 19 months of a 23 month prison sentence and a three-year probation, according to ESPN, and now is back in the NFL playing for the Philadelphia Eagles. There is no legal obstacle stopping Vick from getting a new dog, just as there would be no obstacle for New Yorkers coming off of the proposed abuser registry.

Though it would be legal for Vick to get a dog, not everyone feels that his legal punishment was enough to rehabilitate him or earn him the privilege of having a companion animal. The ASPCA opined that he “hasn’t expressed a shred of empathy toward the dogs he brutalized and killed. And rather than talk about the horrors of dog fighting, he has consistently chosen to focus on the consequences of getting caught. In a nutshell, his actions are self-serving. We’ve seen little remorse and even less compassion. And let’s not forget, he caused unspeakable suffering to hundreds of innocent dogs.”

Petside.com took a similar stance, with Assistant Editor Ryan Karpusiewicz writing, “I understand and respect the legal system and the way that it is supposed to work. And yes, I understand that once Mike Vick is finished with his probation that he is technically allowed to own a dog again. But there’s something that just doesn’t sit right with me when I think about it. This man killed dogs in a brutal fashion, in the name of sport, human pleasure and financial gain.”

So the animal abuse registry proposed in New York City would not bar convicts from ever having pets again, and there is vigorous debate over whether it would be constitutional to have a lifelong ban. But for the time being, the big question is whether the proposal will become law at all.

The bill is co-sponsored by council members Vincent Gentile and Elizabeth Crowley. The New York state legislature is considering bills S. 3804 and A. 1506, which would create a state-wide animal abuser registry.

Though it isn’t foolproof, the proposed registry would be a big step towards keeping animals safe from known abusers.


Related Stories:

First U.S. Animal Abuser Registry Makes Convicts Public

Nation’s First Animal Abuser Registry Approved in Suffolk County

Is It Too Soon To Forgive Michael Vick?

Photo credit: Hemera

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254 comments

Linda Bowman
Linda Bowman3 years ago

I agree they should never be allowed to have any animals at all should be like parole get the people to vote in a new law to get fingerprints ,get as much info on them as possible,have an officer of the court to go out an check on them to be positive they have no animals at home or at jobs,serial killers are made this way start on poor animal;s and go to children or grown peo-ple that they can controlthe victim .

Linda Bowman
Linda Bowman3 years ago

I agree they should never be allowed to have any animals at all should be like parole get the people to vote in a new law to get fingerprints ,get as much info on them as possible,have an officer of the court to go out an check on them to be positive they have no animals at home or at jobs,serial killers are made this way start on poor animal;s and go to children or grown peo-ple that they can controlthe victim .

Linda Bowman
Linda Bowman3 years ago

I agree they should never be allowed to have any animals at all should be like parole get the people to vote in a new law to get fingerprints ,get as much info on them as possible,have an officer of the court to go out an check on them to be positive they have no animals at home or at jobs,serial killers are made this way start on poor animal;s and go to children or grown peo-ple that they can controlthe victim .

Linda Bowman
Linda Bowman3 years ago

I agree they should never be allowed to have any animals at all should be like parole get the people to vote in a new law to get fingerprints ,get as much info on them as possible,have an officer of the court to go out an check on them to be positive they have no animals at home or at jobs,serial killers are made this way start on poor animal;s and go to children or grown peo-ple that they can controlthe victim .

Pat Bacon
Pat Bacon3 years ago

Justin and Beth, you are right on top of this thing. Now we need to BOMBARD Washington and MAKE them pass a strict national registry into law and then force strict,long sentences for abusers.

Justan Acre
j Acre3 years ago

Not only a name and photo on a national registry, but also fingerprints in a national data bank. These pervs are xtremely cleaver. Can't tell u how valuable it would be to find out the "circle of friends{fiends} these aholes run with. Any ideas??

Jacqueline Fonseca

I feel that this can make a giant leap into setting one up for a national level!

Sheri D.
Sheri D.3 years ago

I agree 100% with Beth M., "There needs to be a national animal abuse registry and a national law that convicted animal abusers should never be able to own a pet again."

Beth M.
Beth M.3 years ago

There needs to be a national animal abuse registry and a national law that convicted animal abusers should never be able to own a pet again.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin3 years ago

It's a start, but not enough. A life long ban on owning animals. A national registry. Compulsive registration and failure to do so, more than a year (3-5 atleast and for real bad ones a minimum of ten) inside and a hefty fine. It has to be a deterrent. Otherwise, animal abusers just set up shop somewhere else. This is what has happened in Sweden. A law banning ownership of animals have been on the books for some time now. But the register isn't national. Yet. Offenders can easily move to another state and get new animals to abuse, neglect and dismiss. Although animal abuse punishment have increased the last year or so, the penalties are way low. One of the more severe sentences was 18 months for a low-life that tortured a puppy to death during a long period of time. He claimed he got angry with the dog when he peed on the floor! Still, we do have to start somewhere and as long as there are laws stopping animal abusers from owning animals, there are always ways to improve those laws. Let's all keep fighting for the innocent and unprotected!