Read the original article by Cullen Browder at wral.com here.
Two state senators have proposed creating an online registry of people convicted of abusing animals, similar to the state’s sex offender registry.
The bill filed Thursday by Sens. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, and Danny Britt, R-Robeson, calls for the state Department of Public Safety to launch the registry next year, including offenders’ full names, mugshots and other identifying information. First-time offenders would remain on the registry for two years, and subsequent offenses would put someone on the registry for five years.
Repeat offenders also would be barred from owning any animals for up to five years under the proposal.
In 2015, Tennessee became the first state in the country to create an animal abuse registry, but it focuses mainly on people convicted of violent abuse. Fifteen people are now listed on the registry.
WRAL Investigates last year found more than 100 pending court cases in North Carolina that would qualify for an animal abuse registry if the state had one similar to Tennessee’s.
But McKissick’s and Britt’s bill defines abuse much more broadly, including convictions on everything from cockfighting to maliciously chaining up dogs to neglect to transporting animals in an inhumane manner.
For example, a Cary woman who pleaded guilty Friday to 10 misdemeanor animal cruelty charges after horses were found starved to death on her family farm in southern Wake County wouldn’t be listed on a Tennessee-style registry but would qualify for the one proposed for North Carolina.
Camalee Scarpitti with Horses for Hope was in court Friday when Burleson was sentenced. Scarpitti said she believes the online registry will help keep animals safe so they won’t have to go through what her horse experienced before she adopted it eight years ago.
“If I put my hand up too quickly, she flinches away from me and you know I’ve never laid a hand on her, but somebody hurt her in the past,” she said.
Animal rights group have complained in the past that too many serious animal abuse cases are pleaded down to lesser charges.
“It’s heartbreaking, especially for severe abuse cases, intentional abuse,” Dr. Jennifer Federico with the Wake County Animal Control Center said.
Federico has seen her share of animal abuse cases and says they don’t have to happen.
“There is help in the area, there are places like our shelter you can bring your animal to. If you can’t care for them anymore, we’ll take them in,” she said.
Several other states are also looking at possibly establishing animal abuser registries.