Animal Abuser Registries Gain Traction but is it Enough?

Animal Abuser Registries Gain Traction but is it Enough?
By: Kelsey Noel
 

In a society greatly divided by political issues, one area of common ground for most people is the anger they feel when horrific animal abuse cases become mainstream news. Each day more cases of pets being abused or negligently killed at groomers, celebrities involved in dog fighting, or viral videos of people abusing animals has been spreading all over the internet.[1] These stories and videos have sparked emotions across all communities. Each new story of abuse highlights how current laws fail animals. With the rise in social media and news coverage of these stories, it does not come as a surprise that many areas of the United States have decided to create animal abuser registries. There needs to be a greater movement by legislatures to increase and nationalize animal abuser registries in the United States.

The only state to adopt a statewide animal abuser registry was Tennessee, which implemented its registry in 2015.[2] In places where there is a lack of statewide regulation, local counties have passed ordinances to track animal abusers within county lines while others lack any laws at all.[3] For example, in Syracuse, New York “[t]he animal abuse registry requires convicted abusers to stay on there for 15 years.”[4] In addition, “many states require counseling for convicted abusers.”[5] The benefit of Tennessee and smaller counties trailblazing animal abuser registries is that it not only shows implementing these systems is possible but also establishes a framework that can be easily adopted by other states. 

However, despite the progress many states have made towards protecting the rights of animals, there is still much to achieve. Currently, 35 states still allow people who have been convicted of animal abuse to own pets.[6] Additionally, “laws preventing known animal abusers from adopting animals exist in only 15 states.”[7] In many instances, judges are limited on how long they can prevent an animal abusers from adopting another animal.[8] This means pets have little to no protection from being adopted by an animal abuser who would mistreat them. The lack of consistency in laws and registries creates a legal loophole for animal abusers to access animals in other states and counties. 

Many people are pushing for a movement to make pet abusers register in the same manner as sex offenders.[9] Currently, there is no national registry tracking animal abusers in the United States. The best many places can do is “use a ‘Do not adopt’ list to check on animal abuse convictions.”[10] A more reasonable approach to prevent this legal loophole is to establish a registry similar to the National Sex Offender Public Website established in 2005.[11] This site “links public state, territorial, and tribal sex offender registries from one national search site.”[12] Having a similar system would allow Humane societies, animal shelters, pet breeders, or other animal sellers the ability to protect their animals from becoming victims of abuse.

As more momentum grows within each state, the possibility of statewide or national registries becomes more attainable.[13] If a national system cannot be implemented, at the bare minimum, all states should adopt a system and set of laws requiring animal abusers to register if they move in the same way sex offenders are required to do. Owning a pet should not be treated as a right but a privilege. Preventing animal abusers from adopting pets ensures animals are more likely to end up in healthy forever homes.

[1]Dog groomer facing second animal cruelty charge after new allegations, Fox5 (Last visited Oct. 6, 2018, 7:40 PM), http://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/dog-groomer-facing-second-animal-cruelty-charge-after-new-allegations; Rene Rodriguez, Former NFL Quarterback Michael Vick sells Davie home –to another football player, Miami Herald (2018), https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/real-estate-news/article218930310.html; Samantha Forester, Update: Second arrest of a juvenile girl in animal cruelty case, News Channel 6 (Last visited Oct. 6, 2018, 7:54 PM), http://www.newschannel6now.com/story/38206956/update-more-details-about-viral-cruelty-to-animal-video/.

[2]Animal Abuser Registries, National Anti-Vivisection Society (Last visited Oct. 6, 2018, 7:58 PM), https://www.navs.org/what-we-do/keep-you-informed/legal-arena/companion-animal-issues/animal-abuser-registries/.

[3]See Animal Abuser Registry, Onondaga County Sheriffs Office (Last visited Oct. 4, 2018, 5:30 PM), http://sheriff.ongov.net/animal-abuser-registry/

[4] Stephanie Stanavich, Syracuse fugitive wanted for failing to register for animal abuse, CNYCentral.com (2018), https://cnycentral.com/news/local/first-person-wanted-in-onondaga-county-animal-abuse-registry; See also Ononaga County, N.Y., Local Law No. 5-2017 (2017).

[5] WTH?! Convicted Animal Abusers Can Still Adopt Pets in 35 States  - Let’s Change This, One Green Planet (2018), https://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/convicted-animal-abusers-can-still-adopt-pets/; See Generally Animal Neglect, The Humane Society of the United States (Last visited Oct. 6, 2018), http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/abuse_neglect/qa/neglect_faq.html.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] WFTX, CNN, Animal abuse registry gains momentum in Florida, ABC Action News (2018), https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/national/animal-abuse-registry-gains-momentum-in-florida.

[10] Id.

[11] About NSOPW, The U.S. Department of Justice NSOPW (Last visited Oct. 6, 2018 8:18 PM), https://www.nsopw.gov/en/home/about/; See also Sex Offender Registry Websites, FBI (Last visited Oct. 6, 2018 8:20 PM), https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/sex-offender-registry.

[12] Id.

[13] See note 9.