Legally Brief: Christmas Comes Early for Animals—as Abuser Registry Takes Hold in NYCPosted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on December 20, 2013
This week, the New York City Council voted unanimously to create a registry of animal abusers. This legislation, introduced by Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr. and supported by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, means the city can keep better tabs on animal abusers within its city limits.
The impetus for this city registry came after Astoria bodybuilder Milan Rysa threw his own dog out an apartment window (he was convicted for this act of cruelty). Vallone wanted to ensure something like this could never happen again. “Right now, there’s nothing stopping an animal abuser from walking out of prison, going to his neighborhood pet shop, and buying a new animal to hurt,” said Council Member Vallone. “Our shelters are doing an excellent job of trying to keep animals safe, but they have no way of knowing if they are handing a puppy off to a violent criminal—my registry fixes that problem.”
This registry will provide electronic information to law enforcement, pet stores, shelters, veterinarians, and animal protection groups and require them to consult the registry before adopting out or selling an animal to anyone. Furthermore, it would prohibit convicted animal abusers from owning, residing with, or intentionally engaging in any physical contact with any animals for a minimum of 5 years. Anyone in violation of these terms—who fails to report or who owns an animal during the period of their prohibition – would face up to a year in prison. Registries like Vallone’s aim to speak up for animals who cannot speak up for themselves, and that’s why the Animal Legal Defense Fund has worked so closely with Vallone’s office to get this bill passed.
ALDF has led the effort to establish animal abuser registries and recently launched a campaign to create a national animal abuser registry. This national database would provide a valuable public tool to help ensure that no animal is ever adopted out or sold to a convicted animal abuser even when abusers cross state or county lines to do so.
ALDF worked closely with Suffolk County, New York to help it become the first-ever locality to pass an abuser registry law, two years ago. Many states are considering registry bills this year; four counties in New York have already passed such laws (Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, and Albany). ALDF offered start-up grants to establish state-level registries in Michigan, Texas, and Arizona this year—and offered to donate $10,000 to offset the costs of establishing a registry in New York City—which has just become the largest jurisdiction in the nation to protect its citizens with an animal abuser registry.
These registries are a gift for animals and animal advocates. Along with Council Member Vallone, ALDF believes that protecting animals and communities is something we can all get behind.