Tennessee Launches Statewide Animal Abuser Registry

Tennessee has launched an online registry of those convicted of animal abuse anywhere in that state. The registry represents the nation's first database to list information about convicted animal abusers on a statewide basis.

In May 2015 Tennessee lawmakers passed HB 0147 and its twin bill SB 120 establishing the Tennessee Animal Abuser Registration Act, which authorized the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to establish and maintain a website containing the photos, names, and addresses of those convicted of animal cruelty crimes in that state. The measure became effective on Jan. 1.

Under the new law, information for the database will be provided by court clerks who are required forward copies of judgments along with convicted offenders' dates of birth to the TBI within 21 calendar days after the judgment is entered.

“The clerks have been informed about the change in Tennessee law and are already accustomed to sending the proper information to TBI,” said Josh DeVine, TBI public information officer.

Information about convicted first-time animal cruelty offenders will remain online for two years. Data about those convicted of subsequent animal cruelty crimes will remain online for five years.

Currently, the database is empty.

“Only those convicted for qualifying offenses that occur on or after Jan. 1, 2016, are eligible for inclusion in the registry,” DeVine said.

Scott Heiser, director of the criminal justice program for the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), said that in 2013, the ALDF pondered establishing a nationwide registry to which states could contribute.

“The idea was to keep costs down for interested states, but that registry was never established,” Heiser said. “The Tennessee database is the first statewide registry.”

Meanwhile, some animal advocates believe that just creating the registry is a positive step toward addressing animal cruelty crimes in Tennessee.

“I'm excited about it,” said Franklin, Tennessee-based Arabian horse trainer Jill Girardi-Thomas. “It means we're serious about doing something for the animals in this state.”

The Tennessee Animal Abuser Registry can be viewed online at http://tn.gov/tbi/topic/tennessee-animal-abuse-registry.

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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