Earlier this month, Tennessee became the first state to publicly post an animal abuse registry, and animal advocates hope other states will soon follow suit.
Tennessee’s registry includes the names, photos, birth dates and home addresses of people who have been convicted of animal abuse.
According to the law, "animal" is defined as a companion animal, such as a cat or dog. The law doesn't apply to livestock or wildlife. First-time offenders will spend two years on the registry, while second-time offenders will spend five years on it.
“It’s going to be another useful tool that agencies such as ourselves can do a little bit more research on individuals we encounter whether it be in the field or individuals that come to adopt animals,” Lauren Bluestone, director of Nashville’s Metro Animal Care and Control, told WKRN.
People on the registry won’t be eligible to adopt animals from the shelter, according to Bluestone.
However, the registry is currently empty because it will include only people convicted after Jan. 1.
State Rep. Darren Jernigan introduced legislation for the registry three years ago at the suggestion of his neighbor after Tennessee resident David Matson was convicted of beating a puppy to death with a tire iron. The bill was passed in May, and only one lawmaker voted against it.
Supporters of the legislation noted that the registry will be beneficial to people as well as animals, noting the link between animal abuse and violence against humans.
FBI will also track animal cruelty
This FBI cites this link as the reason why it began collecting data on animal cruelty cases as a Group A offense in the National Incident Based Reporting System on Jan 1. Previously, animal cruelty has been considered a Group B offense and included in a catch-all category with more minor crimes.
While several U.S. cities, including New York City, have animal abuse registries, Tennessee’s is the first statewide registry.
Rep. Jernigan said he spoke with legislators from other states, including California and Georgia, about introducing a bill similar to Tennessee’s in 2016. Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania are currently considering such bills.
Interested in introducing similar legislation in your state?
“Reach out to your state representative, write letters, talk to the media,” Amber Mullins, communications director for the Humane Society of Tennessee Valley, told HLN. “The Humane Society representative in your state can help. Start making noise.”