WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA)--Would you want to know if you were living next door to a convicted animal abuser?
A new movement is underway to start registering animal abusers like we do sex offenders.
Seventeen year old, Max, was abused before he was adopted by Renee Young. "We got Max from a shelter. He'd been abused. All his legs had been broken. He had a tattoo on his stomach. God only knows what that was from."
"Animal abusers are in every community in this country and they range from people who commit neglect. People who don't feed their animals, don't provide veterinary care, to people who commit major felonies: torture and killing of animals, long term abuse," says Joyce Tischler of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is spearheading a movement to get states to create a central animal abuser registry, much like a sex abuser registry. They say a registry would help neighbors protect their animals and allow shelters to do better background checks before making adoptions.
"Someone convicted of felony animal cruelty or felony animal abuse would be mandated to register with the local county sheriff or police, his or her name, address, employer, photograph, fingerprints," says Tischler.
Harvard Economics professor, Jeffrey Miron, argues that while the registry sounds noble in theory, states just don't have the resources to enforce it. "Making sure they're in the registry, making sure they're living where they say they're living. In my judgment those resources could be better used pursuing more important types of crimes, homicides, rapes, assault."
However, proponents say the registry will be able to do double-duty. Protecting people as well as their animals. A 1997 study by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Northeastern University found animal abusers are five times as likely to commit violent crimes against people.
"It's a tiny little step on our part to help the animals," says Max's owner, Renee Young.
While several states are considering animal abuser registry legislation, so far none has put one into place. However, there is a volunteer pet abuser database at petabuse.com. This tracks more than 16-thousand accused or convicted animal abusers. The Animal Legal Defense Fund also tracks abusers online.