First statewide animal abuse registry launching

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee is set to become the first state to release a registry that will consist of the names of people convicted of having intentionally abused animals.

WBIR-TV reports that, beginning Jan. 1, anyone can access the online registry, see a picture of the offender, and learn the offender’s age and where the offender lives.

The Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate passed legislation in May to allow the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to create the website.

State Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, a co-sponsor of the bill, says he thinks he it will be a strong deterrent against animal abuse.

The registry consists of those convicted of aggravated animal cruelty, or felony animal fighting. First-time offenders will spend two years on the registry, while a second offense makes it five.

Amber Mullins, communications director for the Humane Society of Tennessee Valley, told HLN that the bill will also help shelters make the adoption process safer.

"The main advantage is to be able to check the list before we do our adoptions. We interview the people who come in, of course, but we want to know that the animals are going to good homes. It gives us an extra route to ensure we can make that happen," she told the network. "There's a documented link between animal abuse and human violence. It's great to be finally getting on board with this because a public record could serve as a deterrent."

Other states, including Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, are considering similar bills.

"Reach out to your state representative, write letters, talk to the media," She said. "The Humane Society representative in your state can help. Start making noise."