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September 20, 2016

Do animal abuser registries make more or less sense than sex offender registries?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this recent Washington Post piece headlined "Animal abusers are being registered like sex offenders in these jurisdictions." Here are excerpts:

Starting in November, convicted animal abusers in the county that includes Tampa will be easier to identify. Their names, photos and addresses will be published on a county-run website that is publicly searchable and similar to the online sex offender registries that have proliferated since the 1990s.

The animal abuser registry, passed last week by commissioners in Hillsborough County, is aimed at preventing people who have 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.  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.

The county is the latest in a tiny but growing group of U.S. jurisdictions to adopt such registries.  A handful of New York counties have them, as does New York City, although that one isn’t accessible to the public. Cook County, Ill., whose county seat is Chicago, recently decided to create one. Tennessee started the first statewide registry in January, although it still has just three people on its list.

“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,” New Jersey state Rep. Troy Singleton (D) said about legislation he sponsored to make his state home to the second statewide animal abuse registry. He referred to the idea as a “first line of defense.”

The registries are part of widening efforts in the United States to punish and track animal abusers, who, research has shown, commit violence against people at higher rates than normal. 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.

“Most owners consider their pets to be family members,” Kevin Beckner, the Hillsborough County commissioner who pushed for the registry, said in a statement.  “This Registry not only protects animals, but it can identify — and maybe even prevent — violence against humans, too.”

The registries have several limitations. For one thing, they’re local, not national, so a person with an animal cruelty record in Tampa wouldn’t be stopped from getting a cat in Miami. Most require the cooperation of offenders themselves, requiring them to register or face a fine.

And the tool is not without its detractors — some of whom include animal advocates.  The chair of the Hillsborough County’s Animal Advisory Committee called the registry there “not sufficient at all,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.  Retailers have protested the idea of putting salespeople in the position of saying no to potentially violent customers whose names pop up in an online search.  That concern led the Florida county to require stores and adoption shelters to procure only an affidavit, which can be checked against the registry — and passed along to authorities if there’s a match — after the customer leaves. But it has been dismissed elsewhere....

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.  “Such individuals would pose a lesser threat to animals in the future if they received comprehensive mental health counseling,” Pacelle wrote at the time.  “Shaming them with a public Internet profile is unlikely to affect their future behavior — except perhaps to isolate them further from society and promote increased distrust of authority figures trying to help them.”

A few prior related posts:

September 20, 2016 at 08:40 AM | Permalink

Comments

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. “Such individuals would pose a lesser threat to animals in the future if they received comprehensive mental health counseling,” Pacelle wrote at the time. “Shaming them with a public Internet profile is unlikely to affect their future behavior — except perhaps to isolate them further from society and promote increased distrust of authority figures trying to help them.”

So, basically exactly the same problems as the sex offender registry, then.

Posted by: Guy | Sep 20, 2016 9:25:50 AM

And the punitive registry shaming just goes on and on.

May as well just have a registry for EVERYTHING that anyone might do wrong. Sooner or later everyone of us would probably end up with some kind of label.

But if truth be told, I'd rather see a registry for animal abusers than for sex offenders.

Posted by: kat | Sep 20, 2016 9:29:51 AM

A public registry open to the general public can be problematic but a special registry for animal adoption and so forth would appear to be different. An animal abuser might -- at least for span of time -- be blocked from adopting or buying a pet. It seems to me somewhat comparable to putting a violent offender on a "do not buy" list for firearms.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 20, 2016 10:11:09 AM

Why don't we start by getting the SRO right?

Posted by: federalist | Sep 20, 2016 10:48:29 AM

Pure pandering to a soft-headed public.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Sep 20, 2016 12:05:43 PM

Farmer Brown's chickens, cows and pigs love the idea. Of course, they are more intelligent than the average, public indoctrinated, er, I mean educated voter.

Posted by: albeed | Sep 20, 2016 3:07:01 PM

Is it wrong to allow, e.g., a pet sitter who was guilty of animal cruelty to be vetted in some fashion so potential clients will know about it including the use of some sort of photograph registry to better vet people?

If it is not wrong, what would be the appropriate way to go about it?

Posted by: Joe | Sep 20, 2016 5:25:29 PM

As they say, 'stupid is as stupid does'. The new mantra for this group will be 'think of the animals'.

Posted by: Querky | Sep 20, 2016 8:06:47 PM

"Is it wrong to allow, e.g., a pet sitter who was guilty of animal cruelty to be vetted in some fashion so potential clients will know about it including the use of some sort of photograph registry to better vet people?

If it is not wrong, what would be the appropriate way to go about it?"

Sounds more like a solution in search of a problem.

Posted by: federalist | Sep 21, 2016 7:20:21 AM

If someone, e.g., was convicted of mistreating animals while running a low priced dog hotel of some sort might after serving their time try to get similar work.

It would seem useful, as people do their due diligence in checking out other things, for someone obtaining services like that to know about recent convictions of that type. And, use of photographs would provide a closer fit than at times mistaken text records.

Also, they might try to adopt a pet. Again, it might be useful to know. This was cited in the article.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 21, 2016 5:31:27 PM

Ok, so what's wrong with compiling a public list of all drivers who've been cited for speeding four or more times? For that matter any other public endangerment crime. This is just another step towards devising ways to continually shame, categorize and ostracize people after they've paid their debt to society through our so called justice system. It certainly contributes to the impression that more people are buying into this politically correct, nanny state, stupid stuff, not questioning it and just turning into the type of people they deserve to be, 'sheeple'.

Posted by: Querky | Sep 21, 2016 7:56:44 PM

"If someone, e.g., was convicted of mistreating animals while running a low priced dog hotel of some sort might after serving their time try to get similar work."

The operative word being "might." A solution in search of a problem, or, at best, a solution that, in terms of money, opportunity costs etc etc. seems so much to outweigh the benefits of the solution.

Of course, this is obvious to any with an IQ above room temperature . . . . let's implement a costly apparatus so, golly gee, a few people who might be inclined to check on the local dog kennel's employees. And then, of course, we have the registration issues--neglect a turtle, don't register, and go to jail for 10 years.

Joe, you are stupid, but even you aren't this dense.

Posted by: federalist | Sep 22, 2016 2:57:02 PM

And Joe, have you ever tried to adopt? OMG--the process the cat ladies at the shelter put you through is beyond insane.

Posted by: federalist | Sep 22, 2016 2:58:41 PM

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