Several bills circulating through the New York Senate and Assembly aim to create a registry for people convicted on animal cruelty-related charges.
It has gained support from animal advocates in the North Country.
It’s Rebecca Burdo’s job, as shelter manager at the Elmore SPCA in Peru, New York, to find safe homes for shelter animals.
“I would love to be able to cross reference. I would love to be able to put a name in a computer and say ‘No, you abandoned a dog in an apartment. That’s not cool. Why did you do that? Let’s talk about this. Let’s open a dialogue.’”
That would be possible if the state of New York creates a registry for people convicted on charges related to animal cruelty.
At least one of the bills would prohibit people on the registry from adopting or owning an animal.
Fines and/or imprisonment would be enforced for non-compliance.
“Having a registry that anyone could look at, would really help not only sheltering agencies, rescues, humane societies, SPCA’s but all of these people who are rehoming animals,” said Burdo.
The Elmore SPCA works closely with local law enforcement agencies, including the Plattsburgh Police Department, on animal cruelty cases.
“I think anything to increase the sanctions for animal cruelty and neglect and abuse is a positive thing,” said Lt. Scott Beebie, with the Plattsburgh Police Department.
Lt. Beebie believes the current law is too lax in some regards.
“I don’t believe the sanctions have approached where they need to be yet because of the egregiousness of the crimes,” he said. “By adding a registry and increasing sanctions to these people who do commit this helpless victim crime, I believe is a positive.”
Animal cruelty laws currently fall under Agriculture and Market laws. Lt. Beebie would support those laws falling under penal laws instead.
“I just think it might be a little bit more well known, easier for judges, easier for law enforcement if everything was associated within the penal law,” he said.
Senator Betty Little (R – Glen Falls) says she is “still considering the implications of doing a registry.”
Assemblyman Billy Jones (D – Chateaugay) says some aspects of a registry could be “irresponsible and unfair”:
“A registry of this nature would list an entire agricultural business regardless of whether the agricultural organization condemned the actions of their employee. Our agricultural businesses contribute so much to our communities and they are already under enough scrutiny. I applaud any effort to protect animals, however it cannot come at the expense of the hardworking agricultural community.”
One bill passed the Assembly’s agriculture committee and is now in the codes committee.
Vermont State Senator Tim Ashe (D/P – Burlington) tried to get a similar animal abuse registry bill passed in Vermont a few years ago.
He says the bill faced questions on how to establish and maintain the new registry and who would have access to it.
He says, for now, legislators have moved on to other strategies to protect animal well-being.