A growing number of US states and counties are taking action against people who abuse animals by listing their names on an official registry, similar to the way sex offenders’ details are stored.
The measures aim to protect the welfare of animals by allowing pet shops and shelters to check prospective owners are not on the registry. They also provide a way to vet pet-sitters and those seeking to buy an animal from another person.
A wider law enforcement motivation is also behind the registries, as studies have shown people who are cruel to animals are more likely to enact violent crime against people.
Tennessee was the first state to introduce a registry in January 2016, following the lead of a small number of regions in New York state, including New York City, and one area in Illinois.
Tampa in Florida joined the list of counties with animal abuser registers in September – and similar initiatives have now been proposed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
“This registry not only protects animals, but it can identify – and maybe even prevent – violence against humans, too,” said Kevin Beckner, commissioner of Hillsborough County in Florida, home to the city of Tampa, when the law was passed there.
Not all the new registries are available to the public, but citizens in Tennessee can view the names, dates of birth, addresses and crime details of the state’s eight people convicted of cruelty to animals.
In the UK, police keep details of registered sex offenders and parents and guardians are able to make a formal request to find out whether an individual has committed a child sex offence.
A recent petition to introduce a similar initiative for people convicted of animal cruelty gathered a thousand signatures, but was forced to close early because of the general election.
Others have called for more serious sentencing for animal cruelty, including one petition created after the high-profile case of the mistreatment of a bulldog called ‘Baby’ by two brothers, which was signed by nearly half a million people.
The website of the UK-based Campaign for an Animal Abuser Register says: “Current animal welfare law is a start, but there are serious loopholes.”
“It's a surprise to many that at the moment there is no legal requirement to record an animal abuser's name and details on any Register, or to make abusers report any change in their details or address. This means the police and prosecuting agencies can't keep track of offenders and prevent further cruelty to animals.”
It also lists the names of a number of convicted murderers known to have tortured or killed animals.
“The double murderer Stephen Farrow (convicted last year) killed other people's pet animals as a child. The killers Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy, Raoul Moat, and the child murderers Ian Brady, Thomas Hamilton, Robert Thompson, and Ian Huntley all killed animals after torturing them,” it says.
In the US, acts of cruelty against animals have been tracked by the FBI since 2016 in the same way as crimes including arson, burglary, assault and even homicide, allowing police to monitor and tackle the extent of animal neglect, torture and other abuse.
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