In February, we wrote about California legislators’ efforts to create a statewide animal abuser registry, along the lines of sex offender databases. Although this effort stalled, probably over funding, Suffolk County, N.Y., has created an animal cruelty registry that will be the nation’s first.
“The law was prompted by a number of animal abuse cases in recent months,” reports The Huffington Post, “including that of a Selden woman accused of forcing her children to watch her torture and kill kittens and dozens of dogs, then burying the pets in her backyard.”
The idea is that a registry will not only keep offenders in check but also provide for the future protection of animals and maybe people, since violence against animals is often a precursor to violence against humans.
I sympathize with the impulse to mark these often dangerous people with a scarlet letter but at the risk of drawing your ire—last time around, Bark readers’ general consensus about the registry was a hearty thumbs-up—I have to wonder where we draw the line in creating public, online databases. If we list all the people convicted of animal cruelty, then why not list those convicted of domestic abuse, or arson, or robbery? Why not create neighborhood maps that reveal where every felon lives? I also wonder if the registry might not have a negative impact, taking away offenders’ incentive to reform since they've been publicly flagged. Why not create an easy-to-use, searchable database with access limited to law enforcement, employers in animal-care related fields and shelters and rescues?
Honestly, I don’t know where I land on this, but I do think it’s important to move beyond fear and anger to consider the potential consequences of registries of this kind.