Tennessee Beats California in Protecting Animals

Over the past number of years there have been a host of laws passed in California to protect animals. For example, in 2008, Proposition 2 set standards for hens, calves and pigs and in 2012 the penalty for cockfighting was doubled and fines for dogfighting ere increased.   But unlike Tennessee, the most populated state in the Union does not have a state wide registry to protect animals from those convicted of animal abuse!

This issue is not cutting edge. In 2010 California State Senator Flores introduced SB 1277 to set up an animal abuser registry. SB 1277 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee but failed to advance any further due to cost concerns. Back in 2010, according to the advocates at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the cost of implanting a registry would be between $19,000 to $60,000 (based on estimates prepared by other States considering a registry) but the California Department of Justice put the costs at between $750,000 and $2,000,000 (of course everything costs more in California!).

So how did Tennessee do it? First, the entire Tennessee law is two pages long (ok, three if you count the last page which just has a signature on it) while the proposed California law was about 5 times as long. And what does the Tennessee law do? It simply requires a list that includes the photograph, legal name, and other identifying data of anyone convicted of animal abuse. You remain on the list for two years upon a first conviction and five years for subsequent convictions. Tennessee doesn’t rely on self-registry; rather upon conviction the court clerk send the information directly to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation which keeps the list. Doesn’t sound all that complicated or controversial. In fact, the Tennessee law is supported by PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council) which is known to object to laws that intrude on the rights of pet “owners” and those who sell live animals.

So why doesn’t California have such list? Sure in some locales there may be an informal list that is somehow shared between groups. But even in those places there are significant questions: (1) who determines which groups have access to the information; (2) what criteria do these groups use to determine who should or shouldn’t be on the list; and (3) unlike a criminal hearing what protections does someone have against being wrongly placed on this list? All of this begs the question what happens in other places in California without such an informal list and what happens when someone moves from somewhere where there is a shared list to somewhere else? Frankly, the Golden State should take a lesson from Rocky Top and step up to protect animals from those known to abuse them.

Thanks for reading.