Arrests in Citywide Dog Fighting Rings Exemplify the Need for Registry as a Matter of Public Safety

April 14, 2011 — Senator Larry Farnese today announced that he has introduced legislation that would create an Animal Abuse Registry in Pennsylvania for those convicted of cruelty to animals.

“This week’s arrests of 19 people in a citywide dog fighting ring exemplify the need for a registry as a matter of public safety,” Senator Farnese said. “Many of those were arrested are known to law enforcement for other crimes. Animal cruelty is on the rise, both in number and in degree of severity. Some people justify this dog-fighting behavior as ‘cultural.’ I reject that. Our culture does not tolerate this behavior.”

Police said that 24 dogs, including puppies, were seized— many with bloody scars from fighting. Two dogs were found fighting inside a ring in a second-floor bedroom. Drugs, guns, heavy chains, steroids and treadmills were also taken from the properties.

In New Jersey this week, a 17-week-old puppy was found lying in the road after having been shot three times.

The American Psychiatric Association considers there to be a high correlation between animal abusers and those who are violent toward people. There are myriad examples of violent criminals who have a history of animal cruelty.

The U.S. Department of Justice also uses animal abuse as a marker for youth at risk of violent behavior. By creating an animal abuse registry, the community will be served by helping reduce the risk of new animal and human victims at the hands of repeat offenders.

“Communities are entitled to know about these convictions,” Senator Farnese said.

Under Senate Bill 921, persons convicted of an animal abuse crime will be required within ten days of conviction to register their names, aliases, addresses, place of employment, date of birth, social security number, a recent photograph and the offense for which they were convicted.

Any individual with two or more convictions set forth under the registration requirements are subject to lifetime registration.

Offenders would be required to update their information annually and whenever their information changes. Those individuals who fail to register or reregister commit a felony of the third degree. Those individuals who fail to provide accurate registry information commit a felony of the second degree.

The legislation would also require that those who must register pay an annual $50 fee, which will go into a restricted account to pay for the maintenance of the animal abuse registry. The sheriff in each county will be required to maintain a local registry responsible for forwarding all registration information to the Pennsylvania State Police. PSP will be required to maintain a central registry available to the public.

The restricted account to be established in the State Treasury will be known as the Animal Abuse Registry Fund. This fund will be used exclusively for funding the administration of the registry by county sheriffs and the Pennsylvania State Police.

Several states, including California and New York, have introduced similar legislation. Suffolk County, New York recently passed legislation creating the nation’s first animal abuser registry in response to a barrage of animal abuse incidents in their area.

The bill is now in the Judiciary Committee.

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