New York Legislators Pass Animal Abuser Registry Law

The names, addresses, and photographs of convicted animal abusers residing in one New York county will soon be displayed online thanks to a new law that establishes the first animal abuse offender database in the nation.

Unanimously passed by the Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday, IR1879 establishes an online animal abuser registry similar to databases containing information about sex offenders. Under the measure convicted animal cruelty offenders age 18 years and older must provide their names (including aliases), addresses, and a photograph to the registry within five days of release from jail or five days after their conviction. Offenders are also required to update registry information annually and pay an annual registration fee of $50. Those who fail to register or pay the annual fee could be subject to a fine of $1,000 and/or one year in jail. Offender information will remain in the registry database for five years.

Suffolk County SPCA Director Roy Gross said the law is designed to help rescue operators, animal welfare authorities, and the public identify convicted animal abuse offenders in their community.

"This is a simple solution to help prevent animals and people from being victimized," said Gross, whose agency will develop, maintain, and underwrite the database. "We're making history here."

Though the registry only contains information about convicted offenders residing in Suffolk County, Jo Diebel, president of Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue in Pennsylvania, said the database will be a valuable tool for identifying abusers who may have left New York and moved into other states.

"Right now all we have is one website ( that posts articles and court information about abuse cases online, but its operators can only post cases they know about," Diebel said. "This is awesome."

Sandy Grambort, director of equine services for the Humane Society of North Texas, believes making offender information public can put convicted breeders and horse traders permanently out of business even if judgments do not ban them from owning or selling animals in the future.

"A measure like this has potential to address the court's shortcomings," she said. IR 1879 is the first animal abuse offender legislation to win passage in the US. Earlier this year, lawmakers in California declined to back a bill that would have established a statewide registry there. In 2008, the Tennessee Senate passed legislation that would establish a statewide registry, but the legislation later languished in the House.

Now Gross hopes the Suffolk County law will encourage lawmakers elsewhere to attempt the legislation again.

"The phone has been ringing all day," he said. "This will be a model for other municipalities and counties across the county."

IR 1879 will become law immediately after Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy signs it into law. Gross expects the registry to be online shortly thereafter.

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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