Animals

A growing number of U.S. counties are registering animal abusers like sex offenders

Starting this November, convicted animal abusers in Hillsborough County, Florida will have to register themselves like sex offenders do.

According to the Washington Post, the animal abuser registry passed last week, launching its mission of preventing people who’ve harmed animals from doing so again.

“Retailers and shelters will be required to have prospective pet adopters or purchasers sign an affidavit saying they’re not on the registry,” the Post’s Karin Brulliard reported. “Regular people seeking pet-sitters or new homes for their animals will be able to vet candidates. Law enforcement officials will, at least in theory, be able to keep tabs on offenders’ whereabouts.”

Hillborough joins a handful of counties from New York, Illinois, and Tennessee who’ve adopted the practice.

“Just as we place extra trust in teachers and law enforcement, so, too, should we ensure that those engaged in the handling of animals have a spotless record,” Democratic New Jersey state Rep. Troy Singleton said.

Studies have shown that animal abusers commit acts of violence on their fellow humans at higher rates than normal. The registries hope to track animal abusers more effectively.

From the Post:

All 50 states now have felony provisions for the gravest crimes against animals, although many offenses are still considered misdemeanors. The FBI has added animal cruelty to its list of Class A felonies, and this year began collecting data for such crimes the way it does for other serious offenses, including homicide.

Nevertheless, the program has faced some criticism, even from animal rights activists.

“There are different degrees of abuse. There are offenders who intentionally kill or torture animals, or who are engaged in dogfighting. On the other end of the spectrum, there are pet owners who have an inadequate doghouse,” Steven Shatkin, president of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said. “We wouldn’t want to paint both types of offenders with the same brush.”

Among the skeptics is the Humane Society of the United States, whose president and chief executive, Wayne Pacelle, wrote in 2010 that the “overwhelming proportion of animal abuse is perpetrated by people who neglect their own animals” and are unlikely to commit violence against other people and pets.

Conversely, the Chicago animal shelter Tree House Humane Society, was all for the registry set to begin next year.

“This will be a very useful and objective tool for us to lean on when it comes to denying adopters,” WaPo quoted one adoption counselor as saying.

“Now, it won’t just be our gut instinct — we have actual documentation to lean on.”

 Featured image: mashelter.org

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