Animal abuse registry could hold key in cruelty cases

JONESBORO, Ark. – What if we forced animal abusers to register in a searchable database, just like sex offenders? Jonesboro Animal Control Sgt. Larry Rogers thinks it is an excellent idea.

And just across the Mississippi River in Tennessee, it is actually being done. The Tennessee Animal Abuse registry is monitored by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Each abuser listed has their name, date of birth, offense, conviction date, and expiration date visible for the world. For first time offenders, the registration period is two years. An additional five years is added for each subsequent offense. 

The Jonesboro police sergeant, Rogers, said repetition is key to animal cruelty. He said Arkansas has in law that after a fourth offense, the suspect can be convicted of a felony. There is just one problem:

“But the thing about it is, we need a registry to where we can keep up with that,” Rogers said. “What good is it if we don’t have a registry to where officers can go to see someone has been charged with animal cruelty? A person can go to Jonesboro and be charged with it, then go to Blytheville and be charged with it, then go to Little Rock and be charged with it, and each time counts as the first time.”

By itself, the torture or abuse of a powerless creature is heinous behavior the public deserves to know one has displayed. However, it goes far beyond those factors alone, Rogers said.

“Also, animal abuse leads to other crimes: child abuse, elderly abuse, domestic violence,” Rogers said. “Look at some of our major players: Jeffrey Dahmer, Berkowitz, DeSalvo. We call it an indicator and a predictor because it can indicate and it can predict that if it continues on, other crimes are going to happen.”

Abuse of animals is a power crime, Rogers said. Someone takes power over something and they commit the crime. He said when officers go to a domestic violence case where the woman said her husband has beat her, they often take the pet from the home and give them safe haven.

“…because a lot of times they’ll say if I leave and come back, my animal will not be there,” Rogers said.

Likewise, the inverse is true. Whenever officers go on an animal cruelty call or investigate a hoarding case, the sergeant said officers always ask the people if there are any children or elderly people in the house.

“If they say yes, we ask to see them because if they’re abusing the animal, they’re also capable of committing the crime of child abuse or elderly abuse,” Rogers said.

Photo by NEA Report

Currently, Tennessee is the only state with a registry. Some municipalities, like New York, have also adopted the idea, according to Arkansas does not currently have such a database.

“Am I for something like that, a registry? Yes,” Rogers said. “It keeps it where you would not continue to charge a person with a single crime. It would step it up, that way, the officer could actually find out the suspect has been arrested several times and can go with felony animal cruelty. I think it should also be something people could take into fact around daycare and where there are children around.”

By Stan Morris | NEA Report; featured photo of abused dog from this story.

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