The State Of Tennessee Will Soon Have An Animal Abuse Registry To Keep Track Of Convicted Animal Abusers

In news that is sure to cause the delight of animal lovers all over and hopefully set a precedent, the state of Tennessee is about to take a stance against all animal abusers, future and past. The first ever animal abuse registry will go into effect as of January 1, 2016 and be available to the public. A handful of other cities, like New York, and counties already have animal abuse registries but Tennessee is the first to implement it as a state wide bill.

In less than two months, similar to other offence registry’s, there will be a public online registry of all persons in the state of Tennessee who have ever been convicted of serious animal abuse. It took over three years for the bill to actually be passed, but over 11 other states are already getting set to follow suit and implement their own animal abuse registry. Not all of the states who are considering the registry would make it public though, some have in the wording of the bill that only law enforcement would be able to access it, while others state that their animal abuse registry would be accessible to animal shelters, pet stores, and breeders. You can take a look at the states reviewing the bills at the National Anti-Vivisection Society’s website and can even vote on the bill if you reside in any of those states.

There is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the passing of Tennessee Animal Abuser Registration Act last spring and state Senator Jeff Yarbro, who actually sponsored the bill to create the registry, is very passionate about animals.

“We proposed this law not just to take a stand against animal cruelty, but to take concrete action to prevent abuse and deter those who repeatedly engage in the torture and killing of animals.”

Persons convicted of the offence of abusing an animal for the first time will find that their names, as well as a photo of themselves, to the animal abuse registry for a minimum of two years. For each subsequent conviction an abuser’s information will remain on the registry for an additional five years. I Heart Dogs wrote that it is their hope that considering the abundance of news reports surfacing about animals being abused having the animal abuse registry will help to raise public awareness while subsequently reducing instances of animal abuse.

While there are some people who find the registry controversial have claimed that it invades privacy animal activists and public shelters are very much in favor of the system as it gives accountability. Amber Mullins, who is a spokesperson for the Humane Society of Tennessee Valley, has expressed her belief that the registry will help to keep animals out of the hands of abusers, while also making possible future animal abusers reconsider their actions for fear of being added to the registry. However, even amongst those who advocate for animal welfare the bill has its opponents.

A 2010 blog post from the president of the Humane Society of the United States, which they have said they stand by now,states that they believe the resources allocated to such a registry could be better spent on mental health care and enforcing animal cruelty laws. In fact they believe the registry might have negative effects.

“Shaming [animal abusers] with a public internet profile is unlikely to affect their future behaviour – except perhaps to isolate them further from society and promote increased distrust of authority figures trying to help them.”

Senator Yarbro insisted to Huffington Post though that the animal abuse registry will not detract funding from mental health treatment nor from law enforcement efforts. It will provide many shelters and rescue groups with an added tool to ensure that animals are placed in a safe environment. Scott Heiser, a senior attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund agrees with Yarbro and both also believe that considering the close documented relationship between those who harm animals being prone to also harm humans it could be a tool to stop cruelty overall in the state.

Tennessee State Representative Darren Jernigan also supported the bill.

“There are going to be consequences to harming animals in Tennessee. If you’re going to burn a cat or kick a dog, you’re going to pay for it.”

[Photo Courtesy of Ermolaev Alexander/ Shutterstock]