Tennessee passes first statewide animal-abuse registry

TennesseeTennessee has passed a historic piece of legislation aimed at preventing animal abusers from striking again.

The bill, signed by Gov. Bill Haslam on May 8, will create an online registry of people who have been convicted of certain animal-cruelty offenses, including animal fighting. Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, a public website will list offenders’ names along with photographs. Upon the first conviction, animal abusers will stay on the registry for two years; a second offense will spur a penalty of five years on the list.

Proponents of the new law say it will not only serve as a deterrent to committing such crimes, but inform shelters and other facilities that an individual is not fit to adopt an animal. Others point out the documented link between animal abuse and domestic violence toward humans.

Tennessee is one of nearly a dozen states that considered legislation this year to create animal-abuse registries. Some of the proposals would have made animal-abuse registries accessible only to law enforcement and/or shelters, pet stores and breeders, while other databases – like Tennessee’s – would be open to the public. The policies are modeled after widely used registries for sex offenders.

While Tennessee’s is the first statewide registry, several local governments have put in place similar measures (including three counties in New York, which include New York City).

While some animal-welfare advocates embrace these new registries, others have disagree. Critics, for example, cite privacy concerns or question whether similar types of registries have been successful in preventing crime. Others say that offenders would be better served with mental-health services rather than public exposure.

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