Folks, its been too long, but I knew I was setup for a comeback to the Interwebs. While my inspiration is diffused over many of the topics I have been thinking about since I last wrote, today I was motived by a story out of the Volunteer State.
Today, Tennessee made history by becoming the first US state to enact an animal abuse registry. This registry would work like many other criminal registries (think the sex offender registries many states require). In this specific case, individuals convicted of crimes related to animal abuse are required to self-register or face further penalties. First time offenders are registered for two years, and I am assuming repeat offenders are required to register for life.
Many organizations and governments have discussed animal abuse registries in recent years as a means to appropriately punish offenders of crimes against animals and to also provide a publicly accessible list of individuals who are unfit to care for or work with animals. Possible benefits could include shelters knowing which individuals are not suitable for adoption, who not to employ in an animal-based business enterprise, or simply making an informed decision as to hiring a petsitter.
While Tennessee is the first state to enact a registry, which is expected to go online in January, 2016, various other states such as California, Colorado, and New York have seen activism, both among government and non-government organizations, promoting a registry. In fact, in 2014, New York City approved an animal abuse registry. These accomplishments seem to be the beginning of a larger movement that will likely catch on in other cities and states.
While this is at face value a big win for animals, agricultural and laboratory animals continue to be left in the dark. The Tennessee animal abuse registry only applies to companion animals (and possibly wildlife…although not clearly specified at this time) and this appears likely to be the case for future animal abuse registries. This sets a dangerous precedent where the majority of the animals that we interact with in our society are being further excluded from legal protections. Obviously, this is done intentionally; the cost and resources needed to enforce animal abuse laws in animal agricultural industries, particularly industrialized operations, is high. It also challenges our often taken for granted relationship with agricultural animals. Finally and most importantly, preventing abuse in industrialized animal agricultural industries or laboraties is not simply a matter of prosecuting rogue workers; the whole system is abusive, providing inadequate care and fitness, both physical and mental.
More work is needed to be done on the behalf of not just companion animals, but those in industries, laboratories, and anywhere else where they are defenseless and subjected to human will. Extending legal protections to companion animals is a victory, but only a first step into awarding necessary protections to all and for becoming a more compassionate and just society.
To those dedicated to these goals, keep up the good fight.
A closing note: If you take an interest in Animal Rights issues, check out a book review I wrote for the open source (but peer-reviewed) journal Between the Species.
And for more stories related to animal abuse registries, check out the Huffington Post’s archive.