Going Local

Posted by Stephan Otto, ALDF's Director of Legislative Affairs on October 18, 2010

Last week, we shared the exciting news about the first-ever animal abuser registry being enacted. It wasn’t just the first such registry in the U.S.A, but quite likely the first one in the world. Our national awareness campaign in support of abuser registries started earlier this year through our ExposeAnimalAbusers.org site, but it’s a concept ALDF has supported since 2001 when I developed and drafted the first model legislation for just such a registry.

So which state was first to pass an animal abuser registry you ask (in case you missed last week’s news)? Well, in this instance, a county actually bested all the states to the punch. But lest you dismiss this as just some local ordinance with a limited impact, the county that passed the law was none other than Suffolk County, New York, home to 1.5 million people. Put another way, this new county law will have an impact on more people and animals than if the law had been passed in any of the twelve states with populations smaller than this Long Island county.  

Local laws, like this one, can have a significant influence. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than a 100 counties across the U.S.A. have populations greater than 500,000. But even beyond the direct effect they can have within their respective boundaries, local laws in counties, cities and towns can also help influence and push the debate on a broader scale, leading to changes at the state level and beyond.

Local laws are also the focus of my Animal Law Legislation Clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School. Since the clinic began over a year ago, law student participants have had the opportunity to develop specific, and in some instances novel, legislative proposals for local jurisdictions scattered across the country. These proposals have included a variety of laws aimed at protecting and improving the lives of animals, including such areas as anti-hoarding, overpopulation, neglect, protective orders, civil penalty alternatives, care standards, dangerous animal provisions and more.

The fact is, when it comes to companion animals, the vast majority of them, like us humans, live in clustered metropolitan regions throughout the country. When we improve our local animal protection laws we have the opportunity to positively impact the lives of potentially millions of animals.

Go local – it’s a great option for animals.