Monitoring Cruelty: Online Database Tracks Cases

The recent case of alleged horse abuse in South Carolina underscores the need for a way to track convicted horse abusers nationwide, according Carol Darnell, a former Arabian horse breeder and longtime rescuer.

"We have to vet the people to whom we're selling horses," said Darnell, who currently owns and operates Arendal Arabians and Sanctuary in Choctaw, Okla.

In fact, such a resource does exist. Individuals, law enforcement officers, and rescue agency operators have been contributing to an interactive database at Pet-Abuse.com since 2001. The site is the brainchild of Alison Gianotto, a Southfields, N.Y., Web designer and Internet technology specialist who became interested in animal welfare issues when a neighbor's cat was killed.

Site visitors can search lists of convicted abusers by name, peruse the status of cruelty cases by state or by zip code, and monitor cases through court systems nationwide. The site also contains information about animal abuse laws and their application, as well as animal adoption contacts.

Database information comes from a variety of sources including national and international news sites, which Gianotto scours daily. The general public can also contribute data, but not without the paper trail to support it.

"You can't say, 'I think my neighbor is abusing his animals,'" Gianotto said. "There has to be a citation or conviction on file to substantiate the information."

In the past seven years, Pet-Abuse.com's database has grown from just a handful of cases to 12,833. And Gianotto plans to expand the site to make public the names of prosecutors nationwide, how many cases they try annually, and case outcomes.

"I believe that we don't need more laws, we need more enforcement," she said.

Meanwhile, the site is getting praise from animal welfare agencies.

"It's definitely a good idea to have information about cruelty available to the general public," said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States. "It also serves as a reminder to make potential abusers think twice and understand that horse cruelty is a crime."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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