Sex, Animal Abuse, and the Internet

Seth Victor

In Long Island, New York last Tuesday,  the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved a bill, sponsored by legislator Jon Cooper, creating the nation’s first registry for people convicted of animal abuse. The online registry operates in a similar fashion to the online registration required for sex offenders under Megan’s Laws. Anyone convicted of animal cruelty will be required to submit and keep updated their name, address, and photograph to the publicly searchable database for five years following their conviction. Convicted abusers will have to pay $50 annually for the cost of the registry, and those who do not face a $1,000 fine and one year imprisonment.

Mr. Cooper is quoted stating, “We know the correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence…Almost every serial killer starts out by torturing animals, so in a strange sense we could end up protecting the lives of people.” In acknowledging the link between animal abuse and domestic violence, a relationship of which many people are not aware, Mr. Cooper illustrates how animal protection laws can serve both human and animal interests.

I’m very interested to see how this law is implemented. Obviously the first online registry for animal abusers is quite significant, and it will hopefully encourage similar pending bills across the country. Apparently all abusers will be listed, making this registry much broader than some Megan’s Laws. New Jersey’s system, for example, grades offenders via a series of criteria that assign points to a total score. Depending on the score, the offender will be graded as either a low, moderate, or high risk of re-offense, or 1st, 2nd, or 3rd tier. Only 3rd and certain 2nd tier offenders are included in the online registry, while the rest simply have to be registered with the local police. Will abusers who drown and strangle dogs (and get paid millions in return) find themselves on such a list while those who abuse through neglect do not? If the law is as broad as it appears to be, I would not be surprised to see some legal challenges, depending on the type of abuse.

Mr. Cooper has championed successful animal protection in the past. In 2000 the county legislature approved his “Pet Safe” bill, which allows victims of domestic abuse to give their animals to the county shelter for upwards of 90 days so they can escape abusive environments without sacrificing the well-being of their animals. In that same year he sponsored a relief plan for pets in disaster situations. Currently he is also sponsoring a bill that will make it mandatory for pet stores, breeders, and rescues to check prospective buyers/adopters against the registry, and to screening volunteers for rescues and animal-related businesses.

While a few states have introduced similar bills, and certain organizations maintain unofficial registries (e.g. http://www.inhumane.org), this is the first approved, government maintained registry. Statewide registries are being considered in both California and New York, and ALDF is currently campaigning for registries across the county.

 

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5 Responses

  1. This is great news. What a fantastic initiative. I’d like to see it worldwide.

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  3. [...] Cooper previously helped orchestrate the country’s first animal law abuser registry. His most recent effort is to introduce a bill to create the country’s first rating system for [...]

  4. [...] been pushing for stronger law enforcement for animal abuse in recent years. Suffolk County created the nation’s first animal law abuse registry  in 2010. Moving century old laws into criminal enforcement would certainly be another step in [...]

  5. [...] Taking a page from Suffolk County, Gov. Christie may also sign “Moose’s Law,” a measure that would create a registry of animal abusers that aims to prevent such people from owning pets or working in animal care jobs. In what is becoming an interesting trend in New Jersey, Moose’s Law passed swiftly through the assembly 72-3-2, stemming from an incident wherein Moose, a chocolate lab, was left in a hot car last summer and died from the heat. The person who left Moose in the car is a self-proclaimed animal trainer who claimed she had found him dead, but the allegation is that the woman kidnapped Moose and attempted to give him to a new set of owners. If passed, the measure will require that the Commissioner of Health determine whether any potential employee for an animal care position is eligible to work with animals by checking with an annually updated state maintained list for persons with “an animal cruelty past.”  This list would be publicly accessible. Also passed by the assembly was “Patrick’s Law,” which states that “starvation of an animal or severe physical cruelty be upgraded from a disorderly persons offense to a crime of the fourth degree. Civil penalties would be upgraded as well, from $1,000 to $3,000 for a first offense, and $3,000 to $5,000 for a second or subsequent offense.” [...]

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