There’s a New Type of Punishment for Animal Abusers That’s Stirring Up Controversy

If the thought of animal abuse makes you overcome with rage or sadness, this legislative trend might be some welcomed news for you. The Animal Abuser Registry Act, as it’s become known, registers animal offenders on a public list much like sex offenders.

Some areas of the country started adopting this registry in November of 2016. It’s aimed at preventing people who have harmed animals from doing so again. Retailers and shelters will be required to have prospective pet adopters or purchasers sign an agreement saying they’re not on the registry; people seeking pet-sitters or new homes for their animals will be able to vet candidates with the list; and law enforcement officials will be able to keep tabs on offenders’ whereabouts.

Currently, Tennessee is the only state to have an animal offenders registry, but other cities like New York City and Cook County, Illinois have them at a local level.

“Most owners consider their pets to be family members,” Kevin Beckner, the Hillsborough County commissioner who pushed for the registry, said in a statement. “This Registry not only protects animals, but it can identify — and maybe even prevent — violence against humans, too.”

As with most things, people have pointed out some drawbacks to the registry. While some insist that the list isn’t helpful enough to abused animals (for example, if there’s an animal abuse registry for Tampa, but not the entire state of Florida, the list won’t necessarily stop an abuser from buying a dog in Miami), others don’t like the idea of salespeople/breeders telling a potentially violent person “no” if they try to buy an animal and are on the registry.

Even the president of the Humane Society of America, Wayne Pacelle, doesn’t necessarily love the idea.

“Such individuals would pose a lesser threat to animals in the future if they received comprehensive mental health counseling,” Pacelle wrote at the time. “Shaming them with a public Internet profile is unlikely to affect their future behavior — except perhaps to isolate them further from society and promote increased distrust of authority figures trying to help them.”

Where do you land on the issue? Do you think this act will be effective, harmful, or make no change? Please share your thoughts with us!