Animal lovers can celebrate a huge win this year; in certain US states and counties, animal abusers are now registered in an online database, much like sex offenders. The law has been growing in popularity across the country, while some states have voted no, Illinois, New York and Tennessee are amongst the first to enact the registries. Tennessee adopted a statewide animal abuse registry in 2016, while New York and Illinois are implementing them on a county level.
In some states, the animal offenders registry will be a publicly accessed document much like a sex offenders registry. In others, the identities are protected and can only be accessed by law enforcement, animal control or people dealing with the sale or adoption of animals. In all cases of the registries, the abusers have to register themselves and offset the cost of the registry by paying fines.
Access to this information will not only be crucial in keeping animals out of the hands of abusers, but can also give law enforcement insight into past violent behaviour with criminals. Often, those who abuse animals show a predilection towards violence. Studies have also shown that serial killers often start their criminal careers by abusing animals. In this sense, the registries could protect people as well as animals.
The legal repercussions from the bills differ from state to state, however all of them have fines for those abusers who fail to register. Most of the bills also prohibit the sale of animals from retail stores to registered abusers. In Illinois, the abusers could be fined up to $2,000 if they fail to register and up to $5,000 if they’re found in possession of an animal.
Due to the difficult nature of prosecuting animal abuse cases in the courtroom (animals are terrible on the witness stand), the registries are fairly small. They do however, serve as a fairly effective deterrent for potential abusers.
Some of the states still have legislation pending, click here to support the bills currently in session. Keeping helpless animals out of the hands of these abusers is definitely something we can get behind.