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Animal Abuser Registries

Animal abuser registries are intended to provide a resource for police, shelters and adoption centers to identify convicted animal abusers who are trying to adopt or purchase an animal or who are involved in new allegations of abuse. Access to this information is crucial in keeping companion animals out of the hands of people with a record of abuse, cruelty or neglect.

Animal abuser registries, which are modeled on registries kept for convicted sex offenders, have gained popularity across the country. Legislation in some states makes the information on the registries available only to law enforcement and animal control and shelter facilities’ personnel. Other state bills allow access from members of the public as well.

The first bills to establish animal abuser registries were passed in New York State. In 2010, Suffolk County became the first; in 2011, Albany and Rockland Counties followed suit. In 2012, Westchester County also passed an animal abuser registry law. In 2014, Nassau County and New York City also passed registries.  In 2015, Tennessee became the first state to adopt a statewide animal abuser registry. Orange, Newburgh, Ulster, and Niagara Counties in NY also adopted registries in 2015.

While many other states have proposed the adoption of animal abuser registries—including New York State—it remains a struggle to convince lawmakers and law enforcement officials that it is worth the time and money to implement a database of statewide offenders. A national database has also been considered by animal advocacy groups, but this undertaking would rely on the voluntary compliance of thousands of individual police and sheriffs’ departments from around the country.

The countywide efforts, while not as sweeping, have already had an immediate impact on animal crimes, especially for repeat offenders. They have the advantage of relying on information from local and county entities in a much more manageable framework. Many state officials from around the country are waiting to see how Tennessee implements its new law so that lessons can be learned before considering their own animal abuser registries.

Visit the NAVS Advocacy Center to track which states introduce animal abuser registries and other bills in the coming years.