For more than 25 years, the New York state Sex Offender Registry has kept tabs on sexual predators. Signed into law by former Gov. George Pataki on July 25, 1995, the Registry has recorded names and addresses of convicted sex criminals so neighbors are informed of their presence in the community.
Now, the Greene County Legislature is considering the creation of an animal abuse registry aimed at reducing the number of crimes committed against animals. Jamie Mitchell, founder of Hyer Ground Rescue in Catskill, presented a proposal for a registry at Wednesday’s meeting of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee.
It has become clear in recent years that the number of animal cruelty crimes in both Greene and Columbia counties is rising. Not only that, the crimes are becoming more hideous and equally as heartbreaking. The proposed registry would identify county residents who have been convicted of crimes against animals.
Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said Thursday the registry would contain the names of those who have been convicted of some type of violence against animals and would be available to the public so if someone who was convicted wanted to adopt or buy an animal, the registry can be checked.
Mitchell ensured that holding people accountable for animal cruelty could have more far-reaching effects on public safety as a whole. There have been links between cruelty to animals, particularly among children, and future crimes against people, she said.
Cruelty against animals and violence directed against people have something in common, Mitchell said, citing reports from the Animal Legal and Historical Center. Both types of victims are living, sentient beings that can feel pain and distress and can die from their injuries.
A look at recent animal abuse or neglect cases tells a horrific story: Disgraced horse breeder Ernest Paragallo arraigned in Greene County Court. A dog named Nathan so badly abused that he had to be euthanized. The list goes on and on.
We need what the state Sex Offender Registry was created to be: A document that will identify Greene County residents who have been convicted of crimes against animals, a document that includes the names, addresses, photographs and conviction dates of animal abusers.
It will, however, require a checks-and-balances mechanism to ensure that no harassment or harm comes to the abusers. The public needs information, not a morally objectionable license to mete out vigilante justice.
In other words, we need registries similar to those 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. It’s time Greene County was added to this list.