The House today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Arthur Corvese to create a statewide animal abuser registry aimed at preventing those with a history of mistreating animals from obtaining other animals.

“People who have abused animals should not be allowed to own other animals. Pets are utterly defenseless, and allowing those who are known to abuse them to have more of them is subjecting those animals to an almost-certain fate of pain, suffering and perhaps death. This is a common-sense measure to prevent known abusers from having easy access to more likely victims,” said Representative Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence). “Besides protecting animals, a registry would provide assistance and peace of mind to the dedicated people who work to find homes for homeless animals. The last thing they want is to send a pet into the arms of an abuser, and this will give them a tool to avoid that situation.”

Under the legislation (2019-H 5113aa), which will now go to the Senate, the registry would be maintained by the Attorney General’s office, and would include all animal abusers who are convicted or plead guilty or nolo contendere after the legislation has been enacted. The abuser’s information would be on the registry for 15 years after his or her release from incarceration, or upon conviction if no jail time is served.  Those convicted of a second animal abuse charge would be on the registry for life. All convicted animal abusers would have five days from release or conviction to register and must pay a one-time $125 fee for the administration and maintenance of the online registry. 

The legislation requires the registry be made available on the Attorney General’s website, and requires that animal shelters and pet sellers check the registry before allowing the sale or adoption of any animal to confirm that the animal buyer is not on it, or face a fine of up to $1,000.  Any animal abuser who fails to register is subject to a misdemeanor conviction punishable by incarceration of no more than one year and a fine not to exceed more than $1,000. The same punishment applies for abusers on the registry who are caught owning or possessing an animal, with the exception of farm animals for farmers and service animals for people with disabilities.

The legislation is modeled after “Rocky’s Law,” which was enacted in Orange County, N.Y., and named after a Staffordshire Terrier named Rocky whose owner left him outdoors in freezing temperatures without food or water for five weeks while he went on vacation. Rocky’s resulting deterioration led to his euthanization, and his owner was arrested.

According to the legislation, those who have abused animals are likely to do so again. Some types of animal abuse, such as animal hoarding, have a recidivism rate of nearly 100 percent. There is also a strong correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence.

Creating an animal abuse registry that is available online would make animal welfare agencies, shelters and pet stores partners with the state in helping to prevent abuse. It would also enable ordinary citizens who might be looking for a new home for their pet or its offspring to be sure they are not handing an innocent creature over to a known abuser.

The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly), Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence) and Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence).

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