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How would an animal abuse registry work?

Posted at 9:49 PM, Jan 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-03 09:41:03-05

Note: All of the animals appearing in the video above are available for adoption.

Law enforcement relies on the sex offender registry as one of many tools to protect your family.

But what if a similar database existed for animal abusers?

A law that requires people convicted of animal abuse to register is gaining popularity across the country.

And it's a system local animal rescues are hoping can ramp up even more here in the state of Florida.

"People are not tolerating animal abuse," said Lauree Simmons, founder and president of Big Dog Ranch Rescue.

Big Dog Ranch has been managing a 'do not adopt to' database since it was founded 12 years ago.

"Anybody that has abused an animal, or surrendered an animal in bad condition, or tossed an animal and dumped them at a shelter -- we put them on a 'do not adopt' list and share it between rescues throughout the country," said Simmons.

Simmons said that idea to start a database of these types of people has spread across the state of Florida, with shelters and even county governments on the West Coast of Florida recently establishing such registries. Click here to read more.

Simmons showed us two examples of how the list works.

Sabre is a 11-month-old dog found on Christmas day, surrendered and tied to a tree. Luckily, Big Dog Ranch located a chip on her and they were able to get the name of her owner. That person's name is being added to that list so that other shelters in Big Dog Ranch's network can be aware.

Simmons' rescue also just took in another dog from South Carolina that was abused by a shelter worker.

"He kicked her so hard he broke her leg," said Simmons.

That man was fired and his name is now added to that list.

In Florida, there's no law requiring it such a database but Simmons thinks there should be.

"It's shared between all of the rescues and any of the county shelters that we can get it to. Laws need to be tougher," she said.

Palm Beach County's Animal Care and Control also manages their own 'do not adopt" list to check on animal abuse convictions. They often work with area rescues like Big Dog Ranch to compare data.

"We've been using the same computer software here for 25 years," said Dave Walesky, ACC captain. "We do already have it in our local ordinance that we have the right not to adopt an animal out to somebody for any reason, at any time."

Walesky said their database is only central to Palm Beach County. There is no statewide, one-stop-shop for an animal abuse registry and it's up to each individual county in the state to establish such records.

"There's just so many places that someone can acquire an animal these days -- Craigslist, bulletin boards at shopping centers. If somebody wants an animal, they're going to get an animal, they're going to find one. It's not that hard to do," he said.

He says a statewide data base is a good idea, despite the mechanisms already in place, but there would have to be some guidelines established before implementing such a massive database across the state.

"There are some mechanisms in place, maybe this will be something a little better," added Walesky. "I do see value in having something like that, but there's a lot of questions I would have as far as how it would work? Who would be able to input information into that? Is it strictly based on criminal charges or could it be animal neglect that was at a lower level and did not end up in someone being prosecuted? So there's a lot of unknowns."

At Big Dog Ranch, Simmons is including new rescues from across the country to their database every week, with the names totaling 6,000. She's hoping local governments and rescues can help this trend continue around the nation.

"We don't want these dogs to end up in the wrong hands again, who knows what these dogs have gone through," she said.

Cities in New York state and Illinois are drafting up laws. Tennessee is the first state to pass a statewide law requiring county animal controls to create a registry.

Dog breeders do not have access to the 'do not adopt' list but are more than welcome to call Bid Dog Ranch and request for a name to be checked.

Click here to view adoptable dogs at Big Dog Ranch.

Click here to view adoptable pets at PBC Animal Control.