First, a sex offender registry. Next, an animal abuser registry?
Animal abusers, take heed. Efforts to establish online registries for animal abusers, like the ones for sex offenders, are gaining support, with legislation pending or soon-to-be-introduced in at least five states.
Among the efforts is one from Florida state Sen. Mike Fasano, who has proposed Dexter’s law, named after a kitten that was beaten to death in his state. His proposal would require convicted animal abusers to register with authorities. Their names, home addresses and photographs would be posted online, and they would be required to pay $50 a year to maintain the registry.
Registries also have been proposed in Maryland, Colorado, Arizona and New York. Stephan K. Otto, director of legislative affairs for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, expects similar proposals in more states.
Suffolk County on Long Island in 2010 moved to create a registry, and has since been followed by two other New York counties. No names appear on the Suffolk County registry yet, because it was only recently set up. Convicted abusers will appear on the registry for five years. Those failing to register are subject to a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
The New York counties also require pet stores and animal shelters to check the names of anyone seeking to adopt or buy an animal against the registry, Otto said.
Maryland State Sen. Ronald Young said he plans to introduce legislation in the wake of two incidents in his state. In one, a Yorkshire terrier was thrown off a 23-foot-high balcony; the dog, Louie, survived. In the other, a golden retriever puppy named Heidi was shot to death.
"Just too many people are mistreating and killing animals,’’ Young said in an interview.
A bill to create such a registry in California, introduced in 2010, didn’t make it through the Legislature, partly because of concerns about its cost.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund says the registries can reduce the number of abused animals and serve as an early warning system for potentially violent criminals, citing cases of serial killers who had tortured animals as children. Otto said they also can save taxpayers money by reducing the cost for caring for and treating abused animals.
Among the issues that need to be addressed is who should be required to register? Should it include "someone who took their golden retriever out one day, went into a 7-Eleven, but it was too hot outside, and the dog died," asked Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles.
Otto said that some states have looked to limit the registry to felons.
Liberty Watch Colorado, in its blog, called the legislation "an unnecessary expansion of government.''
-- Richard Simon in Washington, D.C.
Photo: A homeless dog waits for adoption in Los Angeles. Five states are moving to create registries for people convicted of abusing animals. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times