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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Senator Stanley’s SB700 and Delegate Ramadan’s HB1354: Proposing a VSP Public Animal Cruelty Registry



Update: 

  1. On January 22nd Senator Stanley SB700 passed out of Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee and onto Senate Finance. On January 28th Senate Finance “passed the bill by indefinitely”. SB700 is dead for 2015.
  2. On January 28th Delegate Ramadan tabled his own bill HB1354 in House Courts of Justice Criminal Sub Committee. He told members with the $130,000 cost he knew his bill would not pass but he believes in creating an Animal Cruelty Registry and will resubmit his bill in the future when there are funds to approve it. HB1354 is dead for 2015. 

Original Post:

Senator Stanley’s SB700 VSP Animal Cruelty “List” will be heard by the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee this afternoon. 

Back in 2011 the Virginia State Crime Commission studied if there should be an Animal Abuser Registry because of a bill at the 2011 session. Here is the VSCC Presentation, http://leg5.state.va.us/User_db/frmvscc.aspx?ViewId=1989 

Per the presentations, in 2011 an estimate of the funds needed for an Animal Abuser Registry was:
·         $49,321 would need to be appropriated to DOC in FY12
·         Two state correctional beds and less than one local jail bed would be impacted by FY17
·         VSP estimated that about $986,000 would be required to design and develop a new registry and website
·         An additional $126,411 would be needed each year to support a position
·         Cost to local law enforcement was unknown. 

From FY2007 to FY2011 (5 year period) there were 104 Felony convictions of Animal Abuse in Virginia. That’s 20.8 convictions per year. More than $1 million for a public Animal Abuser Registry for 20.8 additional people per year. 

I did not oppose the bill during the 2011 session but I did oppose it during the VSCC study. The 2011 VSCC voted NOT to create an Animal Abuser Registry. 
 

VSCC studies cost a lot of time and money but yet some State Legislators who are determined to name and shame anyone and everyone convicted of a crime will just ignore the evidence, costs and time spent previously on looking into the same old proposal.
 
Then in 2014 there was SB32  patroned by Senator Stanley calling for an Animal Abuser Registry, it died. 

Now in 2015 Senator Stanley SB700 and Delegate Ramadan HB1354 are both calling for an Animal Cruelty “List” omitting the word “Registry” and allowing the people mandated to register to be automatically removed after 15 years if they have not reoffended and have a proposal I’ll been asking for, for the last 7 years for our Non-Violent Offenders on the VSP Sex Offender Registry but no one wants to sponsor this change. 

Why would we allow for automatic removal for one VSP public Registry after 15 years but not another?  
 
I wanted to share some parts of a 2011 article Tracking Animal Abuse (and Abusers) on the Web http://www.thecrimereport.org/archive/2011-01-tracking-animal-abuse-and-abusers-on-the-web 

Do public registries work?  The head of the country’s largest animal rights group is skeptical. 

Wayne Pacelle, head of The Humane Society of the United States, notes that the majority of animal abuse is perpetrated by people who neglect their own animals and are unlikely to pose a danger to neighbors’ pets. Thus, he argues, a system that alerts communities will do nothing to stop these incidents. 

While Pacelle is not “categorically” against such registries, he thinks the effort is a distraction from the core law enforcement work that needs to be done, such as strengthening and better enforcing current anti-cruelty statutes. 

Otto agrees that the majority of animal abuse involves neglect by a caretaker. But for the ALDF, stopping the smaller percentage of cases that do involve a third party—someone in the neighborhood, for instance, who kidnaps pets, or an abuser who adopts from a pet store that knows nothing about their past—is sufficient grounds for a registry. 

Criminologist Noah Fritz is skeptical of the usefulness of public registries. He founded a U.S. Department of Justice-funded crime mapping and analysis program and teaches at the MetropolitanStateCollege of Denver. He thinks registries may have value when police are analyzing crime for patterns, especially outside their own jurisdictions. But he wonders about the purpose of making registries public and thinks it’s time to test the assumptions that led to their creation. 

Tod Burke, a former Maryland police officer and Radford University criminal justice professor, says registries raise the question of whether people convicted of a crime forever give up their right to privacy. He imagines a scenario in which storeowners convince law enforcement that the way to reduce shoplifting is to create a database of people convicted of the crime. Storeowners then could use already-available facial recognition technology to stop at the door those on the list.

“It would make law enforcement easier, but at what expense?” he asks. 

Alex Friedmann, a former prisoner and now assistant editor of the twenty-year-old Prison Legal News, calls registries the “scarlet letter of our time” and wonders where it will all end. 

“If you’re going to put animal abusers on a registry why not everybody?” asks Friedmann. “Every offense is important to somebody…. Should we have a litterbug registry? It’s a serious question….” 

SB700’s fiscal impact statement is significantly lower ($138,000) than the 2014 version ($838,532 for the first year and $283,332 each subsequent year) that’s because Senator Stanley (and Delegate Ramadan) think a $50 fee per conviction will cover the gap AND because this years versions are NOT retroactive applied to old convictions, they begin with 2015 crimes. I still don’t see how the initial cost of the web design per the 2011 VSCC presentation has completely disappeared for the 2015 proposals. 

If this bills become law in 2015 I wonder if in future session perhaps 2017 or 2019 if there will be proposals by lawmakers that those listed on the VSP Animal Cruelty List must begin registering  their employment, vehicles and email addresses. Perhaps they’ll be required to submit to a new photo, re-register numerous times per year, add a penalty of a new Felony if they failure to update their information within a specific amount of time. Then maybe a prohibition where they can live, work, loiter, etc. Perhaps they’ll be banned from visiting Pet Stores, Animal Shelters, Kennels, Stables, Zoos maybe even Veterinarian offices. These possibilities are not far fetched this is what the Virginia Legislature has done to those listed on the VSP Sex Offender Registry for the last 10 years, it started off as an administrative act and took a serous turn becoming 100% punitive. 

You probably think I am going to oppose a new VSP public Registry of convicted Virginians to be held up as an example of heinous individuals whose one conviction should doom them to a life of scorn with no chance of redemption. 

As with last years version I contemplated the different outcomes of opposing a new VSP Registry for people convicted of crimes other than sexual and supporting a new VSP Registry knowing that how the newer Registry is maintained, monitored and managed could actually help me make the points I’ve been stating for the last 7 years. 

So I’m rooting that the Animal Abuser Registry passes through the Virginia Legislature and becomes law. 

Why? 

Because when those listed on the VSP Animal Cruelty Registry go from holding jobs and having a place to live today to being unemployed, homeless and divorced after they’ve been posted on-line they will be able to prove that these baseless mandates of shame are NOT administrative but in fact punitive. 

Also why would a compliant registrant be allowed for automatic removal after 15 years on one VSP run Registry but from not the other?  

After 7 years of watching the Virginia Legislature propose and pass increased penalties and restrictions upon Registered Sex offenders I’m ready to see the flawed logic that has been applied to RSO’s be applied to another group of Virginians in the hope’s that this will turn the tide for a Constitutional challenge. 

I am not the type of person who wishes to see harm or life destroying barriers applied to additional people. 

But 7 exhausting years have brought me to the point that I will not oppose a bill that will damage, consume, suppress and fracture the lives of other Virginians and their families.  

The true hopelessness and pain of public registries must be brought to light; perhaps including another category of our citizens who again have an extremely low recidivism rate but their convictions churn up such emotions and hate among the public might just do the trick. 

So I’ve asked all the Virginia Legislators to vote “Yes” on SB700 and HB1354! 

Mary Devoy