By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Convicted sex offenders are required by state law to tell law enforcement authorities their whereabouts when they get out of prison. They must register their home addresses with the New York State Department of Criminal Justice on a regular basis.
Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) wants people convicted of cruelty to animals to be forced to do the same thing.
Gentile is a co-sponsor of a bill introduced by Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) on Sept. 12 that would establish an animal cruelty registry in New York City. Anyone convicted of torturing animals would be required to register with law enforcement authorities. Under the proposed legislation, people convicted of being cruel to animals would be prohibited from owning animals.
Crimes that would result in inclusion in the registry are animal fighting, abandonment, aggravated cruelty and failure to provide proper sustenance.
“There are many reasons we should be concerned about the whereabouts of animal abusers. In story after disturbing story, abusers repeat their violent crimes against helpless animals, and have a proclivity to become violent towards people as well,” Gentile said.
The registry would be made available in electronic form to all law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, humane societies, societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, dog or cat protective associations, animal control officers, pet shops and animal shelters, Gentile said.
In accordance with the bill, animal shelters would be required to consult the registry to determine if a person is listed, and would be prohibited from transferring or exchanging animals with someone included in the registry.
“The animal abuse registry will help keep our animals and our families safe. And by proper screening, animal rescuers and shelters can help make sure that animals who have often survived cruelty, neglect, or abandonment will find safe homes in which they will be treated with love and respect for the rest of their lives. If a society is judged based upon how it treats its most vulnerable, then this is a giant leap in the right direction,” Gentile said.
Those convicted of animal abuse would remain on the registry for five years following their first offense, and 10 years for any subsequent convictions.
Anyone convicted of animal abuse who fails to report to the registry or who owns an animal while listed in the registry would face punishment of up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
“We want to keep defenseless animals out of the hands of known abusers,” Vallone said. “In my district in Astoria, we had a punk who threw his dog out of a window, and right now there’s nothing stopping him from going to an animal shelter and adopting a puppy,” he said.
The bill has the endorsement of the American Legal Defense Fund. “New York City residents have good reason to be concerned about the activities of animal abusers, who often go on to repeat their crimes,” American Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells said. “Councilman Vallone’s proposed do-not-adopt database will provide animal shelters with a critical tool to protect the city’s animals from becoming the next victims of a convicted abuser.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) is also a co-sponsor of the bill. “An animal abuse registry will be a critical tool for law enforcement investigating animal abuse as well as other serious crimes,”
Crowley said. “Study after study has shown that the violence rarely stops at animals. Victims of domestic violence often report their attackers also abused family pets, and the FBI and Department of Justice believe animal abuse is a key indicator for future criminal behavior.”