Suffolk County legislators unanimously approved a bill to create the nation’s first animal abuser registry on Tuesday.
The registry will be a publicly accessible and searchable database listing the names of those living in Suffolk County over the age of 18 who are convicted of inhumane treatment and torture of animals, similar to the sex offender registry. Convicted animal abusers will be required to register their names, aliases, addresses and submit a photograph for the registry at least five days after their conviction or the release of their incarceration.
They will be kept on the registry for five years. If they are convicted of an animal abuse crime after that, they will be kept on the registry until five years after the most recent conviction. They are also required to update their personal information annually or any time their information changes. Those who do not comply will be subject to up to a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
The registry will not use any taxpayer funds, and the upkeep will be paid for by the abuser themselves, who have to pay $50 annually. The Suffolk County SPCA has agreed to set up the registry.
“This bill will provide the ammunition needed to fight the ongoing war against animal abusers,” Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross said.
Other animal advocates agree. “Animal abuser registries are practical crime-reducing and cost-savings tools which, owing to the strong correlation between those who abuse animals and those who are violent towards humans, benefit communities by helping to reduce the risk of new animal and human victims at the hands of repeat offenders,” said Stephan Otto, attorney and legislative affairs director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). The ALDF was the first animal rights organization to introduce to idea of an animal abuser registry 10 years ago.
Advocates for the bill point out that the American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty as one of the diagnostic criteria of a conduct disorder and that the U.S. Department of Justice uses animal abuse as a marker for youth at the risk of violent behavior, since many killers, including Ted Bundy and Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, have a history of animal abuse.
The bill now will go to Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who has stated that he will sign the new law.
A second resolution is pending that would require pet stores, breeders and animal shelters to check the registry and prohibit those on it to purchase or adopt pets. It will be voted on next month.
The registry’s approval came on the same day that the SPCA offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of individuals who threw two kittens out of a moving car on the Southern State Parkway last week, killing both cats.