Inspired by the “Megan’s Laws” in states across the U.S., Suffolk County in Long Island, New York, has begun creating the nation’s first animal abuser registry.
The registry will require people convicted of cruelty to animals to register or face jail time and fines.
People who lobbied for the law hope that it will prevent animal abusers from inflicting more cruelty or hurting human victims.
“We know there is a very strong correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence,” said Suffolk County legislator Jon Cooper, the bill’s sponsor. “Almost every serial killer starts out by torturing animals, so in a strange sense we could end up protecting the lives of people.”
The law was prompted by a series of highly publicized animal abuse cases, including that of a Selden, N.Y., woman who allegedly made her children watch her torture and kill kittens and dogs, then bury them in her yard.
The list, which will be available online, will allow the public to do searches and find out whether someone living near them is on it — an important aspect of the registry because some animal abusers have been known to steal their neighbors’ pets.
Cooper is also pushing legislation that would bar anyone on the registry from buying or adopting a pet from a shelter, pet shop or breeder.
Dog lover Fred Surbito applauded the legislation.
“It’s very, very important,” he said. “If you don’t love an animal, you should not have an animal. An animal is part of your family. Like your children, they should never be neglected or harmed. Anybody that does should never own a pet again.”
More than a dozen states have introduced measures to start similar registries, but Suffolk County is the first government entity to pass such a law, said Stephan Otto, director of legislative affairs for the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
The Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will administer the database, which will be funded by a $50 fee paid by convicted abusers. All abusers 18 or older must supply authorities with their address, a head-and-shoulders photograph, and any aliases they have used.
Convicted abusers will remain on the registry for five years. Those that fail to register face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Cathy Mulnard, a founder and co-director of Second Chance Rescue, a Suffolk animal shelter that works closely with the SPCA, called the legislation “a godsend for the animals.”
Animal welfare activists hope the law, which passed unanimously, will inspire governments nationwide in the same way Megan’s Law registries for people who commit sex offenses against children have proliferated in the past decade.
Dan Aug, the spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, said Levy intends to sign the legislation. Once signed, it will be required to undergo a six-month review by state officials before it goes on the books.
[Source: The Associated Press via Huffington Post]