In California, persons convicted of felony animal cruelty could soon share a dubious distinction with sex offenders and arsonists if a bill in the state Senate becomes law.
Sen. Dean Florez, co-chair of the Senate Animal Protection Caucus, introduced legislation Feb. 19 creating a publicly accessible state registry of animal abusers.
The Internet-based registry could be useful to animal shelters, animal sellers, and law enforcement, according to Florez, who believes identifying animal abusers would protect animals and reduce repeat offenses.
"We're not giving our counties and shelters the information they need. It's an information gap that needs to be fixed," Florez said at a press conference announcing the introduction of state Senate Bill 1277. "This, we believe, will allow us the ability to identify animal abusers in the state of California in a much more prevalent way."
Persons listed in the registry will have been convicted of felony animal abuse, such as torture, sexual abuse, animal fighting, or neglect.
Funds for establishing and maintaining the registry would come from a 2 to 3 cent tax on pet food sales. Any surplus would go toward spay and neuter programs in California. "We think this is a win-win," Florez explained.
California, where a ban on tail docking of dairy cattle was recently passed, is not alone in considering ways of publicly naming felony animal abusers. Legislation creating animal abuser registries has been introduced in Rhode Island, Louisiana, Colorado, and Tennessee.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is spearheading a national campaign to establish public animal abuser registries in every state. The California-based animal rights organization has launched a Web site—www.ExposeAnimalAbusers.org—that helps the public petition state lawmakers to propose legislation creating these databases.
ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells says animal abuse is often a sign of a much larger danger. "Many animal abusers have a history of domestic violence or other criminal activity, and there is a disturbing trend of animal abuse among our country's most notorious serial killers," Wells said.
The estimated cost of the California registry and the potential number of offenders named on it would be determined as the bill moves through the committee process, according to Florez.