By Jessi Gower
Capital News Service
RICHMOND — An online animal cruelty registry will be established in the Commonwealth of Virginia this month if Senate Bill 32 is passed.
Although several states have enacted third-, second- and first-offense felony animal cruelty laws, New York is currently the first and only state to pass an animal abuse registry bill.
Chief Patron of SB32, Sen. William Stanley, R-Richmond, says now is the time for Virginia to pass its own registry bill. “I think a registry of this nature is long overdue in Virginia,” Stanley said.
Many animal rights groups across the country have shown support for bills dealing with animal cruelty registries, but there are groups who are known to have reservations about such registries.
The Humane Society of the United States has criticized such legislation and says a public online registry isn’t the way to deal with those convicted of animal felonies.
“Experience has made clear that such individuals would pose a lesser threat to animals in the future if they received comprehensive mental health counseling,” the humane society blog stated. “Shaming them with a public Internet profile is unlikely to affect their future behavior — except perhaps to isolate them further from society and promote increased distrust of authority figures trying to help them.”
Stanley disagrees and says he believes the registry will not only help to stop animal cruelty, but will also help to prevent it. “I think sunlight is the best antiseptic,” Stanley said. “Sometimes people will think twice before they commit a crime, knowing that it would be on public display.”
If the bill passes, 782 individuals who already have been convicted of felonies against animals would be automatically listed on the public online registry.
“The best way is to allow the public to know who these very serious felons are,” Stanley said. “So they can prevent animals from getting into the hands of the wrong people.”
In 2011, Del. Daniel Marshall, R-Danville, proposed similar legislation with his House Bill 1930. Kristen Howard, executive director for the Virginia Crime Commission, says the commission reviewed this study but did not make any recommendations on the bill because of a lack of endorsement for it.
Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.