Animal Abuse Registries: A Brilliant Idea or Not?
Regardless of whether you’re a full-on animal enthusiast or someone who feels total indifference to anything animal or pet-related, I believe we would alluniversally agree that animal abuse is clearly wrong.
I’m not talking about the gray areas. There’s always room for disagreement over what constitutes basic, versus optimal, animal care. But we all know about the animal abuse cases that are just clearly wrong, the ones which make us feel squeamish and repulsed at the perpetrators. I’m talking about the person who knowingly burns a dog with chemical acid. Or the worst of the puppy mills, operations for breeding dogs at the most horrendous and cheap conditions possible.
Clearly, there’s nothing justifiable about these activities, and we certainly have laws in place to punish them. But what about a new idea that’s brewing around the country, namely, the idea of mandatory animal abuse registries for offenders?
Suffolk County in New York is the first in the nation to approve a bill which establishes an animal abuse registry. Convicted offenders must include their names, aliases, and photos in a public, searchable database. They must also pay $50 to maintain the registry. If they fail to enroll in the registry, they must pay a $1000 fine or go to jail.
California was also considering a similar bill back in February (as of now, the proposal is still pending). Under this bill, anyone convicted of an animal abuse felony would have to provide his or her personal information, a description of the offense, and a current photo into a public database.
Proponents of animal abuse registries give two main reasons for the registries: to help animals against further abuse, and to help people against future criminal attacks.
Some argue that animal abuse registries do very little to actually help animals. But this is not necessarily the case. For example, a second bill pending in Suffolk County requires pet stores and animal shelters to check the registry before they can sell or let anyone adopt an animal. Thus, offenders convicted of animal cruelty will not be able to get their hands on another animal.
Additionally, many offenders, once convicted, simply move to a different state or jurisdiction where they can easily carry out the same actions. Animal abuse registries make it easier to catch these transient offenders. They can also make it easier to locate people who operate puppy mills and animal fighting rings.
Secondly, the animal abuse registry helps prevent criminal activity against people, not just animals. It’s a well-known fact that those who abuse animals are very likely to commit criminal actions against people. A public animal abuse registry alerts neighbors and job employers about offenders, just as a sexual offenders’ registry does. If people are made aware of animal abusers in their vicinity, then they will be able to take preventative measures to stop potential criminal activity from happening to them, or others around them.
But is all this a good idea, or even fair? In my opinion, it is. To be honest, I’m surprised that more jurisdictions haven’t yet adopted such a registry. It’s a fairly inexpensive way to reduce animal abuse and future criminal activity (in California, an animal abuse registry is expected to cost less than one million dollars to implement).
I also don’t think animal abuse registries are too radical of a change to implement. In fact, online abuse animal registries already exist, such as www.petabuse.com. All the new laws do is make it mandatory for convicted offenders to report their information into a database. However, private sites like Petabuse.com already collect this information and publish it themselves anyway.
Animal abuse offenders are also a real threat to people. The list of later-turned serial killers and murderers, who were once animal abusers, is endless. For example, Albert DeSalvo, convicted for killing 13 women, used to trap dogs and cats in crates, and then shoot arrows through these crates. The serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer also had a past of animal abuse, impaling all types of animal heads on sticks. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, of the infamous Columbine High School massacre, had bragged to friends about mutilating animals.
Many argue that animal abuse registries aren’t fair, that the government is going too far and overstepping on people’s privacy rights. But to that line of thought I would argue, maybe the convicted offenders shouldn’t have been abusing animals to begin with. In any case, where the law mandates animal abuse registries, I believe convicted offenders should consider themselves of having been adequately forewarned of the consequences.