Animal Abuser Registry will help pets find safe homes
Published 9:03 am Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Tennessee’s animal abuser registry, the first state-created registry in the nation, goes live on Friday, Jan. 1.
The registry will be posted on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s website, functioning similarly to sex or drug offender registries.
“The legislation is intended to make sure that folks who have been convicted of animal abuse will not be able to adopt a pet from shelters across the state,” said State Representative Timothy Hill, who voted in favor of the bill. “It’s a way to protect pets and animals from further abuse by folks that have clearly shown in the past that they would do that.”
Each listing will include the name and photograph of the convicted animal abuser as well as other identifying data that the TBI deems necessary.
Though they already have a “Do Not Adopt” list at the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter, Director Stacey Heiden said this will be a helpful tool to ensure their animals find safe homes.
She said animal abuse and neglect are not uncommon in Carter County.
“We see it all the time — abuse cases, starving pets, neglect — we get a call nearly everyday, and though some are repeat addresses, we receive probably 20 different addresses each month,” she said.
Staff at the shelter go on welfare visits to these locations to identify solutions to problems like a lack of money for food or pets habitually reproducing because they are not fixed. She said that sometimes the solution is connecting people with East Tennessee Spay and Neuter for low cost food or spay and neuter.
“That would be something that we continually check up on, but if they aren’t taking care of their pets, then we have to have the DA involved,” she said, adding that this happens about five or six times a year.
Unfortunately, she said, it takes time for a person to be convicted and for it to be posted to the registry. The bill states that an offender’s name will be on the list for two years if there are no further offenses. If the abuser is convicted of a subsequent offense during the two-year period, his or her name will be on the list for five years. If an offense is expunged, the name and information may be removed.
“The only people eligible for inclusion are those convicted of qualifying offenses on or after January 1, so it may be months before we see anyone on the registry,” said TBI Public Information Officer Josh DeVine.
The registry will not include past offenders.
For this, Heiden said people can reference a national database that has been in existence for over a decade at www.pet-abuse.com. It includes alleged charges, open cases and convicted offenders.
“I would hope that with these things in place, that judges will understand how important it is to take this seriously because it’s a problematic thing that can end in human abuse,” she said. “Having all these things in place is great as long as the attorneys and prosecutors can get these people sentenced.”
She said that whether people are posting animals on the internet for adoption or coming in to the shelter, the registry will help ensure that these pets find safe homes.
Though Tennessee is the first state to establish its own database, some cities and counties have similar lists, and Hill said he would recommend the concept to other states for adoption.