CATSKILL — Greene County is considering creating an animal abuse registry aimed at reducing the number of crimes against animals.
Jamie Mitchell, founder of Hyer Ground Rescue in Catskill, presented a proposal for a registry at Wednesday’s meeting of the Public Safety Committee of the Greene County Legislature.
The registry would identify county residents who have been convicted of crimes against animals.
“As leaders, as parents, as adults, we have an obligation to set the standard in our community to our youth to protect the innocent, whether it is animals, elders, children or the infirm,” Mitchell told the committee. “That is our obligation.”
There are animal abuse registries in 20 counties in New York state: Albany, Bronx, Broome, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Dutchess, Kings, Nassau, New York, Niagara, Onondaga, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester.
Most animal abuse registries include the name, address, photo and conviction date of the individual.
“It would be a registry of those who have been convicted of some type of violence against animals and it would be available to the public so if someone who was convicted wanted to adopt or buy an animal, the group can check the registry,” Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said.
The goal is to assist in reducing the number of animal cruelty cases, he said.
“Maybe it will prevent a future abuse case,” Linger said Thursday.
The registry would also include information and resources for pet owners who may need help with feeding and caring for their animals.
“If you feel you are having a problem or you know someone who is, there would be contact information on the registry so people could seek help,” Linger said. “In the worst case, if someone is convicted you can help stop it from happening again.”
Holding people accountable for animal cruelty could have more far-reaching effects on public safety as a whole, Mitchell said. There have been links between cruelty to animals, particularly among children, and future crimes against people, she said.
“Cruelty against animals and violence towards people have something in common — both types of victims are living, sentient being that feel pain and distress and can die from their injuries,” Mitchell said, citing reports from the Animal Legal and Historical Center.
Studies have shown links between animal abuse and other crimes, including murders by convicted serial killers Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz, according to the FBI website.
“People who abuse animals as children are more likely to commit murder or violent crimes as adults,” Mitchell said. “It’s not just a sign of a personality flaw, but a deep mental disturbance that needs intervention before it gets to the point where someone in our community gets hurt.”
There is also a link between animal abuse and domestic violence and child abuse, according to the FBI.
By posting a registry of convicted animal abusers, the county could potentially prevent those individuals from adopting or purchasing animals in the future, Mitchell said.
“It’s about identifying who in our community is possibly a predator who we wouldn’t be able to identify if we didn’t have a registry in place,” Mitchell said.
Recommendations for an animal abuse registry in Greene County are not new — Mitchell began lobbying for a registry more than a year ago, but efforts were sidetracked by the COVID-19 pandemic, Linger said.
A statewide registry would provide the most effective method of identifying animal abusers, Linger said.
“My suggestion was to link our registry to other registries in the state. We are kind of hoping this morphs into a statewide initiative because it would make it easier for people to do a comprehensive search,” Linger said. “Right now, counties are doing this on our own.”
The concept of an animal abuse registry has been broached with the Greene County District Attorney’s Office and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, and both are on board, Linger said.
The next step would be for the proposal to make its way through the legislative process.
“At this point we do have the local law and the resolution written up,” Linger said. “The district attorney has looked it over so I would imagine during this month’s meeting cycles [of the Legislature] we would set up a public hearing and do a local law for next month. Once that passes, we will establish an animal abuse registry in Greene County.”