There’s a Registry for That: Laredo Seeks to Add a Public Animal Neglect Registry

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We have registries in Texas for weddings and baby showers, sex offenders, and pedigreed animals. And in Laredo, the registry concept may soon expand to animal neglect. The Laredo City Council has voted unanimously to pass an ordinance that would establish a public registry for animal neglect.[1] Laredo would be the first Texas city to have such an ordinance.

The council says it seeks to protect animals by establishing a registry of those convicted of misdemeanor animal neglect and mandating that Laredo pet shelters and stores check the registry before approving an adoption or selling an animal.[2]

Under the current city ordinance, animal neglect includes failure to provide an animal with humane care and treatment, including adequate fresh air, species-specific food, fresh water, exercise, adequate shelter, and appropriate veterinary care.[3] Animal neglect also includes exposing animals to poison and tethering them on a leash without access to shelter, food, and water.[4]

Although this registry would not include those convicted of animal abuse, the council hopes that the registry will address both neglect and abuse by preventing neglect offenders from going on to commit animal abuse.[5]

A council member says the city needs the registry because the current punishment for animal neglect lacks sufficient deterrent value—a person convicted of animal neglect, even a repeat offender, merely has to pay a fine.[6]

The ordinance, which the council member expects to become official, must first be heard publicly twice and ratified by the council before taking effect around September.[7] And the council has to sort out some details, like whether an offender is included in the registry for life or gets another chance at pet ownership.[8]

Jurisdictions in other states already have registries like the one proposed in Laredo. In Hillsborough County, Florida, which includes Tampa, convicted animal abusers are identified by name, photo, and contact information on a county-run website.[9] The county’s law similarly requires animal shelters and stores to check the registry before approving an adoption or selling an animal; it also aims to enable law-enforcement officials to keep tabs on the whereabouts of offenders and help pet owners vet potential pet-sitters and adopters.[10]

Similar registries have emerged in New York, Tennessee, and Illinois, both to protect animals and possibly identify and prevent violence against humans since research has shown that animal abusers commit violence against humans at higher rates than normal.[11]

But these registries have been criticized for being insufficient and local, for tasking salespeople with turning away potentially violent offenders who are on the registry, and for depending on offenders to cooperate rather than face a fine for failure to register.[12]

Laredo’s registry may need some tweaks, but the city council member says the council hopes Laredo can be a pioneer city that encourages other cities to adopt similar ordinances to protect animals across the state.[13]

Meanwhile, the Texas Legislature recently passed a law requiring those convicted of bestiality to register as sex offenders.[14]

For a complete legislative update on Texas bestiality law, be sure to check out the new O’Connor’s Texas Criminal Codes Plus, available in September.

[1] Julia Wallace, Laredo City Council Unanimously Votes to Create State’s First Animal Neglect Registry, LMTonline, June 21, 2017.

[2] Id.

[3] Laredo, Tex., Code of Ordinances, Ch. 6 – Animals and Fowl, §6-18.

[4] Wallace, Laredo City Council Unanimously Votes to Create State’s First Animal Neglect Registry.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Casey Cheek, Laredo Debuts Plans for an Animal Neglect Registry, Texas Standard, June 27, 2017.

[9] Hillsborough County, Pet Advocacy, Search Enjoined List.

[10] Karin Brulliard, Animal Abusers Are Being Registered Like Sex Offenders in These Jurisdictions, Washington Post, Sept. 13, 2016.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Cheek, Laredo Debuts Plans for an Animal Neglect Registry.

[14] S.B. 1232, §5, 85th Leg., R.S., eff. Sept. 1, 2017.