Horse rescue operations could soon have the option of consulting a nationwide animal abuser registry before adopting animals out, according to a representative of the California-based animal advocacy group Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).

Chris Green, ALDF director of legislative affairs, said the ALDF-sponsored database would contain the names of animal abusers from all 50 states, and the database's contents would be available to animal rescue organizations nationwide, free of charge.

“Basically, rescuers and shelters would consult the database to find out who should not adopt an animal,” Green said.

Green said the ALDF registry, also known as the “do not adopt list,” would derive its information from district attorneys in jurisdictions nationwide after cases have been disposed. The registry would contain the only names of those who were convicted of animal abuse crimes, and anyone consulting the database would need to have the full name and birth date of the person in question, Green said. Additionally, the registry would not carry penalties for rescues and shelters that do not consult it, he said.

“Most counties fine rescues, shelters, and pet shops that do not consult the registry,” Green said. “We don't believe in believe fining (rescues and shelters) that are already working on a tight budget.”

Green said the nationwide abuser database is intended to relieve local jurisdictions from compiling and maintaining their own databases. It would also take the place of proposed statewide abuser registries abandoned based on the projected cost of establishing and updating such a registry.

Beverley Strauss, co-founder and president of Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue, in Chesapeake City, Md., said she would consider using a nationwide animal abuser registry, but only as a resource.

“We would want to know the basis for listing people to ensure the legitimacy of the list,” Strauss said. “We would not substitute this list for our own screening process, but rather to supplement it.”

But obtaining contents for such registries has proven no small feat, Suffolk County, N.Y., Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Director Roy Gross said.

In October 2010, Suffolk County lawmakers established an online animal abuser registry; 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 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.

Gross said that the law was designed to help rescue operators, animal welfare authorities, and the public identify convicted animal abuse offenders, however Suffolk County has yet to add one name to its registry.

“We just can't get the information from the local jurisdictions,” Gross said. “If they are going to try to get the information from the jurisdictions, I don't think it's going to be easy.”

Even so, Gross said he supports the ALDF effort.

“If, for example, an abuser moves from Suffolk County to Florida … there's no way to track them; If there is a national database and they move to Florida, there is nowhere to hide and I'm all for it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Alison Gionotto, who established—a searchable, online animal cruelty database—in 2001, believes getting rescuers to check the ALDF registry will be challenging.

“We have the software and the infrastructure set up, and almost 20,000 cases; I'm not sure what they will be doing that will be different from what we've been doing for over a decade,” Gionotto said. “Although I look forward to hearing more, having two authoritative sources is challenging; it's hard enough to get people to use one, let alone check two.”

Green maintained that its database will not conflict with In fact, he welcomed the help both Gionotto and Gross offered. For now though, Green wants to be sure that known abusers are not allowed to adopt animals from any legitimate source.

“You can't keep abusers from getting animals from Craigslist or other sources, but you can keep them from getting animals from legitimate shelters and rescuers,” Green said. “I think if you have a national registry, rescuers will consult it.”

The ALDF national animal abuser registry is slated to be operational by early 2014, Green said.

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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