Should we adopt a nationwide animal abuser registry?
via AP

Should we adopt a nationwide animal abuser registry?

#RegisterPetAbusers
#NoAnimalRegistry
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Jurisdictions across the country have begun registering animal abusers online using a system similar to the sex offender registry. Proponents argue an animal abuse registry will help protect both animals and humans: “This Registry not only protects animals, but it can identify—and maybe even prevent—violence against humans, too." But others argue mental illness is usually at the center of animal neglect, and internet shaming will do nothing to stop the problem. What do you think? 🐶 🐱

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#RegisterPetAbusers
#NoAnimalRegistry

Jurisdictions across the country have begun creating their own animal abuse registries as a "first line of defense" against violence against animals and humans. Similar to the sex offender registry that already exists, the animal abuse registry includes information about individuals convicted of animal abuse for everyone to see.

Starting in November, convicted animal abusers in the county that includes Tampa will be easier to identify. Their names, photos and addresses will be published on a county-run website that is publicly searchable and similar to the online sex offender registries that have proliferated since the 1990s.

As of now, all of the existing animal abuse registries are local, but some believe we should take it a step further and create a nationwide registry. Just because someone moves to a different county or a different state, doesn't mean they should no longer have to suffer the consequences for harming animals.

The registries have several limitations. For one thing, they’re local, not national, so a person with an animal cruelty record in Tampa wouldn’t be stopped from getting a cat in Miami. Most require the cooperation of offenders themselves, requiring them to register or face a fine.

But others argue an animal abuse registry is not the answer. Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, notes mental illness is usually at the center of animal abuse cases, and internet shaming people with mental illnesses will not solve the problem. Of course individuals should be punished if they break the law and bring harm to animals, but is forcing them to register online actually going to prevent future instances of abuse?

While high-profile animal cruelty cases often make the news, the overwhelming proportion of animal abuse is perpetrated by people who neglect their own animals. These people, including hoarders afflicted with serious mental health problems, are unlikely to pose a physical or violent threat to their neighbors' pets (or their neighbors, for that matter). When convicted of cruelty these people should be punished. But experience has made clear that such individuals would pose a lesser threat to animals in the future if they received comprehensive mental health counseling. 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. 

According to The Washington Post, Pacelle believes "tougher enforcement—such as felony charges and the FBI’s data collection—are likely to produce better outcomes.”

Animal cruelty—like other crimes—must be reported, classified, and analyzed in a comprehensive manner that results in swift and efficient enforcement of the law and the general improvement of society. It is not clear that the current round of proposals to create a patchwork of county-by-county or state-by-state public registry databases would materially advance these goals. 
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