Rocky’s Law – A Good Start
There has been a lot of press lately about the recent passage of a law requiring an Animal Abuser Registry in Orange County, New York. Modeled after similar laws in many counties in both New York State and around the country, this law requires that anyone convicted of animal abuse under New York State Law must register with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office after such a conviction. The abuser’s name must stay on the registry for at least fifteen years for the first offense and longer for subsequent ones. Shelters and “animal sellers” must consult the registry before adopting or selling an animal or face a significant fine.
This is a great first step in beginning to curb animal abuse in our area. Studies have confirmed that once a person abuses an animal, that person is likely to do it again. There is substantial evidence that a person that abuses animals often goes on to abuse people. Stopping animal abusers may stop human abuse as well. We veterinarians are required to report any suspected animal abuse specifically for these reasons. The Orange County Legislature certainly deserves the praise it has been receiving for passage of this bill. A careful reading of the law, (I could only locate a draft on the OC Government Website) http://www.orangecountygov.com/filestorage/1158/8953/18791/May_10,_2015_Draft_Resolutions.pdfraises some concerns in my mind though.
1) Implementation and maintenance of the registry is left to the OC Sherriff’s Office. There is no information regarding speed of implementation, funding or maintenance responsibilities yet posted on any OC County Government site. I hope this can be done quickly and efficiently.
2) The law states that “No Animal Shelter, Pet Seller, or other person or entity located in Orange County shall sell, exchange or otherwise transfer ownership of any animal to any person having resided in Orange County and listed as an Animal Abuse Offender.” Prior to the sale, etc, the person or entity is required to confirm that the name of the potential owner of the animal is not listed and can fined up to $5,000 for not doing so. This is great, but how is this going to be enforced? We need to make sure that every single shelter employee checks the registry before adoption. What about people that adopt from our shelters but don’t live in Orange County? They won’t be on our registry so animals could still be adopted to a potential abuser. How about that box of kittens being given “free to a good home” outside the grocery store? Think those people will check the registry before handing over a kitten?
3) We commonly see horrible stories about abused horses in our area. This law exempts “farm animals” from the provisions above and defines farm animals as “an animal used in the production of human or animal food, feed or fiber. Horses are used as both animal and human food in many countries and are sold from the US for these purposes. I’m concerned that it could be argued that horses fall into this category, exempting them from this law. I would have preferred to see them specifically included. Hopefully this can be amended in the future.
4) The law only applies to abusers residing in Orange County when convicted. There is provision for the registry to be tied in to registries from other locales. However, the surrounding counties don’t have such a law on the books. Many abuse stories we hear of locally, occur in other counties. Those abusers could still potentially obtain animals in Orange County. I hope that we all work hard to encourage other counties to adopt similar registries in order to stop animal abuse on a widespread basis. How wonderful would it be if this could serve as a model for a state-wide law/registry. I urge residents of surrounding counties to encourage their legislatures to adopt similar regulations.
Rocky’s Law is indeed a good start. But as with all legislation, the devil is often in the details. I hope that this leads to true change within the animal community and wasn’t just promoted because of the positive press it generated. I’m sure implementation will be monitored closely by the animal advocates in our area. I look forward to seeing it work.