In 2016, Tennessee became the first state in the nation to implement an animal abuse registry, and now other states are looking to follow its lead.
The law requires anyone convicted of aggravated cruelty to animals to be placed on a registry accessible to the public on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s website.
The registry currently has eight perpetrators’ names, photographs and other personal information on it.
Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen told NBC News affiliate WBIR that there are three ways people can make the registry: “aggravated cruelty to animals, fighting animals or having sexual relations with animals.”
The list is reserved for those convicted of the felonies, not lesser misdemeanor crimes of animal abuse, which might involve not feeding or otherwise properly caring for animals.
Also, the law specifically covers companion animals, such as cats and dogs, not farm animals.
State Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, who co-sponsored the legislation, explained why he thought it was an important to step for Tennessee to take.
“These animals become members of our family and they need to have some of the same protections as the people who become attached to them,” Briggs said.
The law requires any who are convicted of aggravated animal cruelty to be placed on the registry for two years. An additional five years will be added to a perpetrators expiration date for every subsequent offense.
Josh Devine, spokesman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, explained via email, “We have heard – anecdotally – the registry is proving to be a resource for adoption organizations, shelters and others as part of their process to ensure those who have a history of abusing animals don’t have access to other animals.”
“The registry – like our sex offender registry – is not designed to be punitive, but informative, so the community has information about those who have been convicted of the most serious animal welfare violations,” he added.
Eric Swafford, Tennessee state director for the Humane Society of the United States, told Western Journalism that “having this type of information being more readily available to law enforcement and to the public, it just makes good sense.”
“Oftentimes people that commit crimes against animals move on to committing crimes against people,” Swafford noted.
Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley executive director Amy Buttry said she is pleased that the registry is available as a resource that her organization can use when doing adoptions, hiring staff and recruiting volunteers.
“Most shelters already use some sort of database, so that they at least know in their immediate town or county of offenders they won’t adopt to,” she explained.
Otherwise, beyond the information contained in the adopter’s application and local databases, “You’re going on faith almost every time you adopt out an animal,” Buttry said.
Michigan became the second state earlier this year to implement an animal abuse registry, while legislation has been introduced in Rhode Island, Texas, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. (For more from the author of “Tennessee Leads the Way in Establishing Animal Abuser Registry” please click HERE)