PRINCETON — State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) recently introduced legislation aimed at helping animal shelters and stores across the country.
The measure allows the state to opt into the national Do Not Adopt Registry, which is a first of its kind national database administered by Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).
The registry would compile animal abuse conviction data into one database that will be accessible across state lines. This will allow shelters and pet stores to screen potential adopters and customers to ensure they have not been convicted of animal abuse crimes, and keep shelters from having to negotiate a patchwork of independent, localized registries not linked to one another.
While it sounds like a great tool to use when screening potential adopters, Princeton Animal Control Officer Nancy Bland is leery about how effective the registry would be.
“It’s only going to be beneficial towards the people who do get prosecuted,” she explained “There are so many who sit just on the borderline of being prosecuted, but who we know would not be a good person to adopt to.”
Also, according to Bland, the time it takes for people to get prosecuted for animal crimes is a long one. She said in a lot of cases, state’s attorneys get busy with other things, and more times than not, animal abuse cases get pushed back. Therefore, the time it would take for a prosecuted name to be put in the registry would be delayed.
What would be an ideal database for animal shelters, according to Bland, would be one that lists those who have been prosecuted for animal abuse crimes and then give an option where animal shelters and local animal adopt organizations could list potential “red flag” animal adopters who are known to not be suitable for adoption.
According to Bland, these potential adopters might be those would have been known to leave animals behind when they’ve moved to new homes, or those who have been known to let their animals run free and get lost and then go looking for new animals, or those who have been known to not take good care of their animals, but haven’t provided enough evidence to be prosecuted.
The Do Not Adopt Registry would only list individuals who are 18 years or older who have been convicted of animal cruelty, aggravated animal cruelty, animal torture, animal fighting, poisoning an animal, dog fighting or other animal crimes. The crimes would be reported and recorded on the registry. Any animal shelter, pet store, animal breeder or person would be able to conduct a search of the national database before selling, transferring, delivering or placing an animal to another person.
“It will do us good only to a certain point,” Bland explained. “What I would like to see is (the registry) dig deeper for those people who need to be posted as a ‘red flag’ who haven’t been prosecuted.”
Bland said with a system like so, it would prevent an issue she often sees at the animal shelter. People who are denied for adoption at one place, will jump over from one facility to another, until they are granted a new pet. Bland said luckily this community is a small one, where many of the local shelters and animal adopt organizations know people and have heard their stories and work together to prevent potential bad owners from adopting.
“This is my opinion on the situation, and while I can’t speak for all animal adoption facilities, I have a feeling their opinions would be the same on this issue,” Bland said.
The legislation on the Do Not Adopt Registry is currently in the Senate awaiting passage. Rezin has an online petition available on her website pertaining to the bill. She is asking people to register their support of the measure for her to use in the legislation process. Her website is www.senatorrezin.com.
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