In a brilliantly progressive attempt at curbing animal cruelty, Maryland Senator Ron Young has introduced a bill to create the equivalent of the sex offender registry, but for those convicted of animal abuse. The bill seeks to create a record of repeat offenders, to identify those with tendencies for violence, to prevent convicted animal abusers from purchasing or adopting new animals, and to inform the community to not allow pets to roam free.
The Animal Abuse Registry is coined “Heidi’s Law” in honor of a young pup who was shot while playing in a field on her own farm. Heidi’s owner Lynette, from Frederick County Maryland, traveled to Annapolis to support Senator Ron Young as he planned to introduce the bill. Just this month Lynette searched her property when Heidi did not return, only to find her tiny body in the field riddled with bullets from a small caliber handgun.
Who could do such a thing to this precious little creature? The Goldheart Golden Retriever Rescue is offering a $7500 rewardfor information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
The potential benefits of this registry abound. Through this list, law enforcement agencies can identify defendants with pathological tendencies for violence and impose treatment options for subsequent convictions. It has long been recognized that many violent criminals and murderers began their downward spiral by torturing small animals. By tracking these offenses against animals, we may thwart eventual attacks against humans. Animal shelters and pet dealers can check the registry before allowing people to take that puppy in the window home with them.
The bill does not come without its flaws, however, as it is highly unlikely that retail establishments will refuse to sell to listed offenders. Likewise, black market animal sales will remain unaffected. In short, a major problem lies in the enforcement of the law’s provisions.
To cover the costs of administration, the bill proposes that a $50 annual fee be imposed on registry offenders. The registry would likely be accessible to the public through a website.
Heidi’s Law will likely not come without opposition in the Senate. I predict that law enforcement agencies and bureaucrats will view the registry as an administrative nightmare. Some libertarians may view the registry as an imposition on an individual’s right to own property and do with it what you wish. While the errors in that reasoning may seem apparent, the belief that animals are property may pose a significant hurdle for this bill’s success. Perhaps there may be enough animal lovers in the bunch to push it through, but just in case, we must mobilize the masses.
So to all the Marylandites out there who would support such a cause, pick up a phone, pick up a pen, or send an email to your local state representative and encourage them to support the bill. It is for issues like these that democracy works best.