A county in Florida last week joined a small, but growing movement of municipalities adopting registries to track animal abusers, reopening a discussion begun several years ago. Jurisdictions in New York and Illinois have them, and Tennessee started the first statewide registry this year, according to the Washington Post.
Cotati-based Animal Legal Defense Fund supports such registries to protect animals – and humans. In an emailed statement, the organization cited a study showing “those who harm animals are five times more likely to harm human victims in the future.” Registries could empower shelters and other adopting agencies with the tools they need to protect animals from becoming victims of “fighting, hoarding, bestiality and other heinous crimes.”
However, The Humane Society said the registries, while well-intentioned, are problematic. The national organization’s view is that mental health counseling and education do more to prevent repeat offenses than public shaming, which only isolates offenders from getting help. Animal abusers stand a good chance of rehabilitation, especially if identified at an early age.
Sacramento County Animal Care, whose shelter has adopted out almost 3,800 animals this year, supports the use of registries as a tool to prevent repeat offenders from adoption animals, said spokeswoman Janna Haynes in an email. The County animal welfare agency currently screens potential adopters, relying on them to answer truthfully about care of current and previous animal. Counseling sessions and follow up calls are also part of the safeguards in place for adoptive animals.
Kenn Altine, CEO of the Sacramento SPCA, agreed abuser registries, while well-intentioned, probably aren’t the best way to protect animals.
The SPCA keeps tabs on the animals that pass through its shelters, and while a bad experience won’t automatically bar someone from adopting a pet in the future, it will lead to a conversation. They take it on a case by case basis. There is a point of no return, however. If an animal returns to them showing signs of neglect, it is very unlikely SPCA staff will trust the adopter with another animal.
“California already has strong laws about people who are abusive to animals,” he said. “People who are looking to acquire animals to abuse rarely go to public shelters” because they prefer to remain anonymous, and adopting animals through the SPCA or other established entities requires identification and other personal information.