Local and state governments across the country have been considering bills to enact animal abuser registries in their counties or states. Some have enacted the laws. The details of the proposed laws and enacted laws may vary with the county or state but the common denominator for most is that a person convicted of animal cruelty has to register (like sex offenders have done for years) and can be prevented from buying or adopting an animal. It’s hard to wonder why any county or state wouldn’t want to enact these laws but the fight to protect animals continues.

Suffolk County, New York was one of the first, if not the first, county in the nation to enact such a law in 2010. Niagara County, New York announced just yesterday that it will establish a registry. One already exists in New York City and a handful of other New York counties.

This year the state of Tennessee became the first to create a statewide animal abuser registry; it became law on May 20, 2015. Today, in Massachusetts a statewide bill for an animal abuser registry is being considered.

New Jersey’s bill passed the Assembly this year and is awaiting a vote by the state Senate. New York State is currently considering a statewide animal abuser registry. Other states including Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are considering statewide laws. However, before the end of this year’s legislative sessions, the animal abuser registry bills did not make their way out of committee for a full vote in Connecticut, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

The proposed laws vary—making the registries available only to law enforcement in some; to select members of the public in others. The law that Massachusetts is considering today would make the registry available to pet shop owners, breeders and shelters; in fact, they could be fined for failing to use the registry. Unlike sex offender registries, these do not appear to be life long registrations. Some suggest five years; others 15 years.

Regardless of the variations in the laws, the bottom line is that action needs to be taken to prevent abusers from having access to defenseless and innocent animals.