Animal Abuse Registry Doesn't Go Far Enough


An animal abuse registry is a great idea, but do these registries go  far enough? I don’t believe so. What I believe we need most to protect animals from bad guys – both bad guys selling and bad guys purchasing animals is to somehow control online sales.

Online sales of animals is like the Wild West, and that includes illegally selling wild animals.

Puppy mill animals are sold all the time, and for the average buyer to discern where that animal is really coming from is challenging. Anyone can build an impressive website, and answer questions the way in which people expect. But are those folks truly legitimate and responsible, or nefarious breeders, or even puppy mills? Hard to say – unless your personally visit a facility.

Shelter animals are increasingly adopted online. Who’s buying from you? The ability to check the legitimacy is limited, as online people “make stuff up.” Yet, no question, shelter and rescue adoption have increased, in part, because of the Internet.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has enjoyed at least mixed success at going after prostitution and other crimes perpetuated by places like Craig’s list. And to his credit, mixed success is better than most.

It’s Dart’s office that will enforce the recently passed bill in Cook County to create registries for animal abusers.

An animal abuse registry works like similar registries for sex offenders and repeat DIU offenders. Depending on how a specific law is written, a person convicted of animal cruelty/animal abuse can not own a pet for a specified period of time.

Tennessee is the first and only state, so far, to have a state-wide registry. It’s too early to know whether the registry has worked to reduce the number of animal crimes.

The campaign for a similar registry in New York City was sparked by a horrific incident in Queens back in 2011. Bodybuilder Milan Rysa tossed his 50-pound dog out of a window to its death.

Former New York City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. started the push for the registry back in 2012. The bill creating the registry passed the City Council at the end of 2013 but was vetoed by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Vallone’s brother Paul, who joined the Council in 2014, led the charge to successfully override the veto.

New York public officials maintain the registry has been a success – but that’s hard to judge since numbers on animal abuse are so “squishy” because most abuse is not reported. What’s even harder to judge is the number of instances abusers of animals didn’t follow suit and commit a violent crime to a person. That Link of animal abuse to domestic abuse, and violent crimes is fact.

It is known that the violent crime rate in New York City declined some since the ordinance went into effect there – however there’s no real way to determine if the ordinance creating a registry of animal abusers played any role in that decline (New York City’s crime rate had been previously on a decline).

Laws vary. In New York City, abusers remain on the registry for five years. If they have been incarcerated, the five year period starts after release. In Cook County, the ordinance (which goes into affect January 1)  is tougher, making it a crime for convicted animal abusers to buy or adopt another animal for 15 years after their conviction — or ever, if they are convicted of more than one offense. The Cook County Animal Abuser Registry will cover all Cook County municipalities, forcing convicted abusers to register on a database hosted on the Cook County Sheriff’s website. Failure to register will result in a fine up to $2,000.

Surprisingly  Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) President, argued in a 2010 blog post that the resources put into such registries — which have been proposed in various forms for years — might better be used toward mental health care and enforcement of animal cruelty laws. However, one thing has nothing to do with the other. Animal registries, in fact, only support the notion that enforcing animal cruelty laws is a good idea. As for dollars and other resources for mental health, sure, but the reality funding for mental health (according various experts) isn’t anywhere near what it should be. No matter, how do dollars spent on mental health (which aren’t changing anytime soon) related to the minimal resources required to create registries of those who have already abused animals?

The hope and realistic expectation is that these registries will prevent convicted abusers from hurting additional animals, and potentially even reduce the odds of these violent abusers even hurting people.  The registries actually provide additional muscle to law enforcement authorities should a convicted abuser not register, or ignore the law about owning additional animals post conviction of animal abuse.

In his blog, Mr. Pacelle continues, “When someone is convicted and punished for cruelty, moreover, does shunning or shaming them forever do any good for any animals?” Why not – if the shunning or shaming prevents additional abuse, yes – that is good for the animals.

I favor that state by state, each follows the actions of Tennessee – creating a registry of animal abusers.

Having said that, I do agree that animal abuse registries will not prevent one easy way around the law, which is Internet sales. And as I suggested, I am equally or even more concerned about the sales of animals from sources such as puppy mills.

I am not Internet savvy enough to fully understand what to do involving the myriad of online crimes, which animals are only a part of. However, something needs to be done.

In the end – I do believe the less violent we are toward animals, the less violent we be to one another.