An Animal Cruelty Offender Registry in Maryland?

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.

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Animal cruelty occurs more often than we are aware, with a very low rate of conviction.  In my opinion, the registry should include all those who have been charged with animal abuse, so that we include all of those offenders who escape through plea bargains and good lawyering.

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.

18 Responses

  1. Thanks for the great, informative post. I really hope Heidi’s Law takes effect in every state.

  2. Reblogged this on K.A.R.E. and commented:
    I really hope Heidi’s Law takes effect in every state!

  3. This is a no brainer and should be in every state; those that oppose it should be exposed as animal abusers!

  4. Ditto julliepruitt. Yes, a no brainer, as maria rosmini says.

    My heart goes out to Heidi and her mom, Lynette. Hope that Goldheart reward leads to a conviction.

  5. I like the idea in general principle. However, I also question how pragmatic it might be.

    Furthermore, suggesting that people who have been only charged with an offense be listed is beyond the pale, and runs directly counter to the concept of innocent until proven guilty in a court of law — one of the most vital underpinnings of our justice system.

  6. Very good point Hal. And I considered the error in my reverse logic as well. However, something just burns me about people who abuse the innocent and helpless; be they animals, elderly, or children. In those cases I seem to feel a bit different about our ‘innocent until proven guilty’ system and lean more toward ‘dangerous until proven not.’ Just an internal rationale or fear, I suppose. After all, I am on the track to becoming a criminal defense attorney; so I understand and respect our constitutional rights and will fight to protect them, but that does not stop my internal dialogue which struggles with it in certain cases.

  7. I am not a supporter of these kinds of registries in general. One can actually be put on a sex offender registry for having consensual sex with a 17 year old, even if one is 18 or 19! And that stigma follows for the rest of the “offender’s” life. I don’t know enough about how effective these SO registries are in combating sexual abuse to make a sweeping statement that the potential good outweighs the bad.

    In the case of an animal abuse registry, as HAL points out, listing people who have only been charged (and not yet convicted) is, from a criminal justice POV, appalling.

    You also point out the “flaws” with the registry:
    “it is highly unlikely that retail establishments will refuse to sell to listed offenders. Likewise, black market animal sales will remain unaffected.”

    I’d say those are major flaws…

    I also am not convinced that this kind of registry will do any real good, for the simple reason that animal cruelty laws, in general only apply to “pets” (That’s not true across the board, but in many states it is). For example, is Tyson foods’ CEO going to be on this registry? Highly doubtful, he’s broken no laws. Yet he runs a corporation responsible for unfathomable cruelty and abuse. I’m not actually being facetious. How can we combat “cruelty” if we don’t even recognize most of it as such?

  8. Thanks for raising points that have allowed me to think this idea through more carefully, Lorien.

    I agree with you and HAL about the unlawfulness and immorality of convicting someone before they have been found guilty of a crime. Indeed, if I had to choose, I’d rather see a perpetrator of a crime not be proven guilty than an innocent person charged for a crime he did not commit.

    And I have to say that everything else you say makes sense. Based on a poem’s line, “Light blesses opened eyes,” I try to always keep my eyes wide open, so when someone shines more light on and exposes more angles on a subject I haven’t thoroughly considered, I can recognize the “errors” that are being uncovered, as well as the truth being revealed, and can respond accordingly.

  9. Hey everyone, this bill will apply to animal abusers who are convicted of horrific crimes like mutilation, torture, murder, and dogfighting. This info is all a matter of public record, it’s just not kept in a central place yet. This is a good bill. There’s some misinformation out there.
    I read about these cases every day, and many of us in rescue are confronted with the horrible effects of abuse.  I do not want these animals to again get into the hands of convicted abusers like Ethan Weibman who adopted animal after animal mutilating and killing each one. I am losing faith in the system and I want to sleep again at night. I don’t want to ignore it, I want to help fix it so it can stop.
    If u truly want to help and prevent convicted abusers like Weibman from getting more animals you must support this bill.  If we see 200 puppies drowning in a pond we don’t walk by because we are only 1 person that cannot save all 200.  We stop, and we save those that we can.
    You can send letters to your senators and delegates at

  10. ABOUT TIME! Animal Abuse Registry absolutely has to include those CHARGED with harm to animals, not just convicted. By the time a person is charged with animal abuse, mutilation, or killing, the evidence is already there. Anyone who has seen what some “humans” do to animals, no matter what their “reasoning” is, is sickened by this. ALL STATES NEED THIS. And pet dealers/animal sellers who ignore this registry should be jailed, fined, put out of business, and be included on the Registry, also. And make sure picture identification is included on the Registry. Don’t give people a second chance to harm an animal. Don’t even worry about the “rights” of people charged or convicted; they didn’t give the animals any rights to live and/or live in a painless, protected way. There has been way too much “slap on the wrist” for animal abuse. HOW CAN ANYONE HURT A DEFENSELESS BEING, ANIMAL, CHILD, ELDERLY, HANDICAPPED? In this instance, we’re talking about animals. WE SHOULD ALL BE APPALLED.

  11. I am an Animal Rescuer and if those Charged went on a list I would never be able to rescue another animal. You have to think of the MANY rescuers who have been charged with cruelty after rescuing an animal who was in Deplorable shape. I know f many who have been accused or charged with abuse when there was no such thing going on. So You should think twice before trying to put everybody else on the Chopping block, Lest you be the next one on the list.

    My pitty went through a puppy stage where we COULD NOT get him to gain weight. He looked like we were starving him and we were accused MULTIPLE TIMES of Neglect. Every time we had to go to our vet and pay 30 dollars just for him to sign a paper saying that Geronimo was fine and happy just having difficulty gaining weight. It was hell. I still cannot stand the Animal Control officer on Ft. Riley. it was more for the fact that he is a pit and they wanted us to have to get rid of him than the fact that he was skinny. (He was Grandfathered in because we registered just before the Military wide Pit ban went into effect)

    So REALLY think about it before you point the finger. Just because they have been charged does not mean that they abused an animal. and think of how many animals would die if the rescuers who have been wrongly accused were put on that list and never able to help another Animal. could you handle all of those lives on your conscience? I sure as hell couldn’t and I’d hate for all of my animals t be taken away for my dog having a genetic problem that we were doing everything we could do to fix.

  12. Dear Kayla, please do not fret. It sounds as if you would be exempt from a bill such as this since you were only charged and not convicted. While you raise an excellent point, this law would only apply to those convicted of extreme animal cruelty and abuse. In addition, it was only a proposed bill and is not certain to become law. Lastly, we admire rescuers such as yourself who have the courage and heart to do what they do in the face of such strong opposition as you have experienced. Keep doing what you’re doing. It is worth it.
    My only question is…do you still have the Pit and did he finally gain weight? I love to hear a happy ending, especially when it comes to pit bulls.

  13. Sear Kayla, Rosie has a very good point. The person would have to be convicted of the charges not just accused ! My son-in-law has a similar situation, with a lab mix of his ! Yes, it is a genitic problem, and his Vet confirms that fact ! We definately need a convicted animal abuse regestry, I’ve said that for a long time, and it NEEDS to be a nation wide regestry !

  14. To Richard and Rosie, I fully support the bill the way it is written, My response was in regards to the people saying that Anyone Charged, Not just convicted should have to be in the Registry, including the author of this article. I hope that my story can show them why putting anyone who has been Charged but not convicted is NOT a good Idea.

    And yes, Geronimo is doing Great, He hit 16 months and just started packing on the lbs. We even had to put him on a little diet not too long ago, he was actually a little chubby lol And thank you fr the responses. Like I said, I fully Agree with the bill being passed, I just think that some of the activists are jumping too quickly before they actually think about what it would mean for rescuers and people such as myself and Richard’s Son in Law if the bill were passed the way they want it to be.

  15. […] An Animal Cruelty Offender Registry in Maryland? ( […]

  16. If anyone has seen the above comment, it looks as though Albany County, NY, my hometown, has passed their animal cruelty registry law.
    With my first legal internship having been in the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, I was surprised to discover that severe animal cruelty did actually occur there.
    Oh Albany…you make me proud. Go ahead, and pave the way for the rest of the nation!

  17. Great information about animal cruelty. By the way, if anyone is interested in a great vet that comes to you, check out

  18. I am and was against this registry law. I even went to Annapolis to speak against it, but I am not an animal abuser. Why do you people think you can out abuse an abuser? Registries of any type are an insane mistreatment of those they are imposed upon. You say it will only be used to prevent them from buying a pet. But before long they will be unemployed, homeless and living in a shelter. And the first time one of you supporters forgets your cat outside the police will be there to put YOU on the registry. So good riddance to trash laws.

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