US FBI tracking animal cruelty crimes; Tennessee will establish public database

On the same day that the Tennessee law went into effect, the FBI began collecting data on animal cruelty crimes in the National Incident Based Reporting System.On January 1, a Tennessee law went into effect that will establish a public registry for people convicted of animal cruelty. Because the registry is readily accessible online, it will serve as both a deterrent to animal abuse and a tool that will enable shelters and others to keep pets out of the hands of abusers.

Tennessee is the first state to enact such a measure, though it joins New York City and a few other municipalities in the U.S. that maintain similar public registries. The Tennessee Animal Abuser Registration Act, which was signed into law in 2015, authorized the registry and signaled that the state would take crimes against animals seriously. The bill’s sponsor, state Senator Jeff Yarbro, emphasized the benefits to both animals and humans from such registries, and received widespread public support for the measure.

The FBI, it seems, also recognized these important advantages. On the same day that the Tennessee law went into effect, the FBI began collecting data on animal cruelty crimes as serious offenses in the National Incident Based Reporting System. Prior to this change, information related to animal cruelty crimes was simply included in a broader data set reflecting various minor offenses.

These major policy shifts at the federal, state and local levels signal that decision-makers are taking animal cruelty offenses seriously and acknowledging the need to address them as dangerous crimes. Similar measures have been introduced in states across the country over the past year, and though some have failed (CT H. 5149; TX H.B. 235; VA S.B. 32; and WV H.B. 2618), a number of states are still considering registration bills.

With the FBI and Tennessee taking important actions to address animal abuse, 2016 is off to a great start—hopefully many more states will follow suit in the coming year!

--CB

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