Proposed Bill Would Create Public Animal Abuser List

Animal control officers found 81 cats crammed into cages inside a West New York condo, last month — 10 in such horrible shape, they had to be euthanized. In Howell, stunned police recently discovered 276 dogs — all crowded together inside one house.

“Living in inhumane deplorable conditions. The animals have no choice, they have no say in it,” said Chief Ross Licitra of theMonmouth County SPCA.

Remember Patrick, the pit bull starved and thrown away like garbage by his former owner? Patrick survived, but Assemblyman Troy Singleton wants to deter this kind of abuse by creating a statewide list of animal abusers.

“Folks will know they will have a scarlet letter so perhaps they’ll think twice about doing some things to animals. But more importantly I think individuals inclined to want to work in certain fields, that those companies will be armed with as much information as possible to determine whether that person should work in an animal enterprise,” Singleton said.

Singleton’s proposed registry would list persons convicted of criminal abuse, or found civilly liable for animal cruelty in New Jersey. He says the public should have access to the list and Senate co-sponsor Steve Sweeney agrees.

“Some of these stories, where people set a dog on fire, or set a cat on fire, you know, it’s not acceptable,” Sweeney said. “You know, animals are vulnerable. And to allow someone that you know that’s an abuser to get another pet, I just don’t think you do that.”

New York City’s got an animal abuse registry, but it’s not public. Tennessee is the only state with a public registry. In Jersey, the state SPCA started compiling a computerized list of abuse cases in 2006. Sadly it adds 5,000 new ones every year, says Deputy Chief Steve Shatkin.

“And unfortunately there are a lot of repeat offenders, and this system will allow us to track them, and even if they move from one part of the state to the other, we can still keep up with them and share the information with other police departments and law enforcement agencies,” Shatkin said.

Shatkin would gladly make the SPCA database available for a state-run abuser registry, but he wants a more specific bill: one that defines the kinds of abuse cases that should be included and he’s not sold on making it public.

“I think it should be available for law enforcement and for shelters and anybody who hires people who work with animals to look at,” he said.

The Farm Bureau says, the list shouldn’t include people guilty of civil penalties — say someone gets sued because a friend’s dog died while they were watching it.

“There was never an official criminal report, or anything, but because you pay the civil penalty in the death of an animal, you would then be on the list, and they could technically take your dog away from you,” Wengryn said.

Singleton and Sweeney say they have no sympathy for those who feel it may not be fair to forever brand someone with the Scarlet A of Animal Abuser. They note psychologists say abusers often repeat the behavior. They think a statewide list of offenders might save some of the most vulnerable lives.


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