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Animal abuse is a serious crime, and not just for pet owners and animal enthusiasts. According to the Washington Post, research demonstrates that animal abusers are more likely than the general population to commit violent crimes against people and the FBI recently bumped animal cruelty up to a Class A felony.
The Post also reports that the FBI is tracking cases of animal abuse much in the same way they track homicides, while jurisdictions from Florida to New York are creating registries for animal abusers much in the same way they have registries for sex offenders. And the registries can affect everyone from pet stores to pet sitters.
Florida Friends of Animals
"Most owners consider their pets to be family members," Kevin Beckner, a Hillsborough, County commissioner, said in a statement. "This Registry not only protects animals, but it can identify -- and maybe even prevent -- violence against humans, too." Florida's Hillsborough County is just the latest to add an animal abuse registry to its municipal statutes.
Under the law, anyone convicted of an animal abuse offense is required to register within 10 days after their conviction or release date, and anyone on the registry is "strictly prohibited from adopting, purchasing, possessing, or otherwise obtaining certain animals from any animal shelter, pet seller, or other person or entity involved in the exchange of animals by adoption, sale, or other means." The statute also places the onus on animal foster and rescue groups, animal shelters, pet shops and other pet-related commercial establishments, animal breeders, and veterinarian services in the county to "ensure that certain animals are not transferred to a person registered as an animal abuser."
As the Post also points out, Hillsborough County is far from the first jurisdiction to create such a registry:
A handful of New York counties have them, as does New York City, although that one isn't accessible to the public. Cook County, Ill., whose county seat is Chicago, recently decided to create one. Tennessee started the first statewide registry in January, although it still has just three people on its list.
The registries aren't perfect. They require offenders to register themselves and only cover the jurisdictions in which they are enforced, so crossing city or county lines could allow an animal abuser (even a registered one) to purchase another animal. Still, registries like Hillsborough's may make it more difficult for repeat offenders to hurt animals, and, perhaps, even people.